Urban Infoscapes

An increasing amount of information is available to urban designers and planners. Remote sensing and aerial photography have the potential to relay continuous and real time information on our cities and wider environment. Countless surveys give designer and planners accurate information on the activities of city populations. Powerful computer simulations allow an increasing number of parameters to be accurately predicted, including factors such as shadowing, sky view, solar envelopes, pollution dispersion, pedestrian movement, traffic flow, space syntax and many others. Emerging technologies require new methods of mapping: mobile phone signal intensity, bandwidth availability, wi-fi accessibility will in the future contribute to the definition of a new \’urban topography\’. How can today\’s designers deal with this topography of information – or infoscape? This seminar course will address this question at three key levels by:1 – exploring available sources of urban information;2 – studying and developing digital tools to process and represent this information;3 – examining innovative yet practical ways to incorporate infoscapes into the design process.The third aspect of this issue will be addressed in the second part of the seminar. We will review the ideas of MVRDV and UN studio in responding to these infoscapes and using them to generate urban form. We will experiment with new human-computer interfaces, developed at MIT Media Lab, that aim to make this kind of information more pertinent to the process of design. Finally, we will investigate the effect of this new approach to designing the urban environment with reference to the evolutionary theory of city design – using Cellular Automata and Genetic Algorithm modeling methods.