Convergence of Intensity: How to Use GeoDesign Tools to Shape a City

Constance Bodurow of Lawrence Technological University, Studio [Ci] presents "Convergence of Intensity: How to Use GeoDesign Tools to Shape a City" at the 2011 GeoDesign Summit. 

Jan 6th, 2011

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00:01Our next speaker is going to be Constance Bodurow from the Lawrence Technological University, studio[Ci].

00:15Good morning.

00:16Constance Bodurow from...I'm the director of studio[Ci], which is a design lab within the College of...

00:21...Architecture and Design at Lawrence Technological University.

00:26We're a multidisciplinary team of architects, urban designers, civil and environmental engineers...

00:32...and we utilize a variety of digital technologies to visualize three-dimensional urban density.

00:38We try to vividly illustrate the built, natural, social, and cultural environments of the city...

00:43...and its neighborhoods by working collaboratively with communities.

00:46We create land use, urban design, and architectural proposals to recommend future dense sustainable urban form.

00:59We're urbanists, and we're interested in the future of urban form.

01:03We believe that cities should be the most desirable place for human beings to live.

01:10We believe that density is sustainable and should be broadly defined and visualized utilizing diverse metrics.

01:18We also believe that there's a new urban geography and ecosystem that's required and that ecosystem...

01:25...would leverage the assets and complex combination of forces that actually shape the city.

01:32We also think that geodesign tools have a role in this, particularly those that include...

01:36...value and asset-based community-driven approaches to identify resources...

01:43...minimize liabilities, and support the creation of this new urban geography and ecosystem.

01:49So our work bridges the disciplines of design and geography.

01:54We believe that the best and most relevant approach to design incorporates and balances both the qualitative...

02:00...and the quantitative through an iterative process...

02:04...and that the powerful tools of GIS and other parametric softwares are well suited to finding that balance.

02:12We work primarily in Detroit, Michigan, and that is a city that's received a lot of attention...

02:18...from the media and also the design professions.

02:21Specifically, we've worked in southwest Detroit, which is a vibrant, 20-square-mile neighborhood...

02:26...located on the Detroit River.

02:28It's growing and thriving and pretty much defying the generally negative depiction of the city of Detroit.

02:37So we feel that Detroit is a place of worth, and through our work we seek to vividly illustrate the...

02:43...built, natural, social, and cultural environments of Detroit and its neighborhoods...

02:47...and produce design outcomes using innovative geodesign approaches.

02:51We've developed an interface, and some of the output of that interface is on the slide you're looking at.

02:57This graphic is now affectionately known in our lab as the stamps graphic, illustrating...

03:03...some of the 115 layers that we've mapped regarding the neighborhood.

03:07So our interface combines the capabilities of Esri ArcGIS, Google Earth, SketchUp...

03:14...and other softwares to model physical and social density and value in three dimensions...

03:19...and that's the key is we model in three dimensions.

03:22So we use these familiar tools, but we believe - you'll let us know - that we're generating unique...

03:27...compelling, and vivid outcomes that help us model urban design principles and guide our design...

03:32...and density recommendations.

03:35So, using our data and it's a criteria-driven geodesign approach, the community has maximized...

03:41...its opportunities and minimized liabilities.

03:45We think the fundamental question designing the city in this century is where and how will we...

03:50...sustainably develop or densify and support residential populations and infrastructure, services, and investment.

03:58Answers to these questions are often dominated by a capricious political market and social forces.

04:05So, again, we feel a consistent description and application of metrics or criteria is essential.

04:11Our response to that question is CI - convergence of intensity - which is a value-based approach utilizing geodesign tools.

04:20CI proposes specific criteria for the form of the city, arguing that...

04:24...balanced, sustainable, dense, and urbane development is possible.

04:29Our methodology to empower cities is to proactively identify and design for a coming together of population..., capacity, investment, and infrastructure, which we define broadly as blue, green, gray...

04:41...and white infrastructure, as well as taking into account the existing built form of the city.

04:48So this spatial convergence which is diagrammed at the top right, we think it can help define the...

04:56...purposeful phenomenon of revitalizing the city based on these broadly designed metrics.

05:02And again there's a little screen capture of the interface at the bottom.

05:07I wanted to demo the interface, but given the limited time, I'm actually going to use some videos to describe our methodology.

05:15We have a three-step methodology.

05:17First, we identify and map these broadly defined density metrics in three categories.

05:23We use primarily publicly accessible data from a variety of sources - the U.S. Census and others... create data layers with our interface.

05:33And again, we create three-dimensional extrusions because we believe that the... can more easily see and interpret the implications of these concentrations of...

05:43...density using three dimensions.

05:46As I’ve said, we’ve mapped over 100 layers to date, which include thousands of datasets...

05:51...and I’m just going to demonstrate a couple of videos here to give you just a taste of some of the things.

05:59The first video shows population density by census tract in Wayne County with the concentrations... southwest Detroit.

06:07This is a change of age of teenagers in the neighborhood.

06:13Next we’re going into a cultural or place category.

06:16This is a SketchUp model of Holy Redeemer Church and school...

06:20...which is a very important cultural resource in the neighborhood.

06:25The third infrastructure category, you’re looking at park buffers, the walking radii from...

06:31...established City of Detroit parks in the neighborhood.

06:35Here you see established existing and proposed blue/green/gray and white infrastructure.

06:42Billions of dollars are being invested in this neighborhood.

06:45And then you also see a small parking capacity graphic here in the Corktown neighborhood.

06:50So that's just a variety of the things that we’re mapping in terms of data.

06:56Our second step we call analysis layerings, or mashups, utilizing the data layers to inform policy, planning, and design.

07:06Our methodology and interface allow for data layers to be overlaid and used simultaneously.

07:11So you can easily see that convergence of density of the resources and assets.

07:18These help us have a collective dialog with the community and informs decision making... recommendations, and implementation.

07:27So, I'll play a couple of videos again of two different analysis layerings that we've created.

07:35The first is a transit analysis layering to argue for a commuter rail stop.

07:39This is a right-of-way to the Ann Arbor to Detroit rail link that does not currently have a stop... the most densely populated neighborhood of the city.

07:46Here's the population density.

07:47Here's the layer that shows vacant parcels by ownership where you could site a stop in the neighborhood...

07:53...and there's the combination of the three.

07:55So the community's using this right now to make an argument to actually site a transit stop... this most populous neighborhood of Detroit.

08:05The second video is a, more of a water quality - oops, pardon, I hit the wrong one. Let's see.

08:18Hold on. Move on. They all look alike.

08:30Help! Need my [unintelligible]. Man, I was on a roll.

08:45There's always got to be something, right? Okay, I think that one's it.

08:49And then CTRL+L, is that right, Nick? Hope this is it. Okay, so this should be...Yes. Great.

08:57These are the floodplains of the Detroit and Rouge Rivers.

09:01And then you'll see the percent impervious surface in gray and the present pervious service... the neighborhood in green.

09:09And then we have average daily traffic on the major state roads.

09:12So the community's using this analysis layering to evaluate non-point source pollution and other...

09:17...environmental impacts and then we hope eventually, as we get into real-time analysis, we can start to look at...

09:23...different density recommendations.

09:27So our third step is design using our geodesign tools, and I'm going to give you one example of how...

09:34...we've used the interface for design.

09:36Our first example of that is we basically mapped five categories in the convergence of intensity approach.

09:44So here you see a rate across the top - energy, where we looked at informal cultural assets...

09:50...capacity, which was modeling the as of right; build-out envelope, population density by block group.

09:58Investment, we're looking at business and employment density by block group in the neighborhood...

10:01...and infrastructure, where we looked at neighborhood parks greenways, and again that proposed rail link.

10:07So that initial look at the convergence, we get then the new geography of the city, where we want to...

10:12...actually focus our recommendations to densify.

10:16Another video, and a reminder here that our context, the majority of our work is in Detroit, Michigan.

10:26This is a district-scale design application. We partnered the Southwest Detroit community...

10:31...and the community selected Scotten Park, which is a 53-acre area of the neighborhood, as a beta test.

10:36They had received Michigan State Housing Development Authority subsidies to build housing in the district.

10:41So we first conducted site visits and did existing conditions documentation.

10:45We generated digital models of existing built and proposed fabric for the study area.

10:52This image shows you their proposed MSHDA application, which is a very low-density...

10:56...townhouse proposal on the development parcels.

10:59We then went about looking at how we could densify this particular neighborhood.

11:04We identified all the vacant parcels that were buildable and realistic for development.

11:10We came up with about 30; we then developed some urban design rationale, looking at the...

11:15...again, that zoning build-out envelope.

11:18What are the height setbacks and those kinds of requirements.

11:22We looked at solar orientation. The neighborhood is sort of ideally southern, located with southern exposure... we proposed our building massing to reflect that and maximize sunlight for...

11:32...the residents and green infrastructure.

11:35Street grid, actually the perimeter streets already have very strong ground-level retail and commercial...

11:40...retail, so we emphasized that.

11:43We came up with building topology and program, based on what the community wanted...

11:48...and we actually recommended two new building topologies with mixed use and apartment residential.

11:55So, this particular proposal that you see here, we call it our max zoning proposal, it's about 55 units an acre...'s six-and-a-half times more dense than the application they had actually made to the state.

12:08Based on the subsidized development economy in Detroit, people don't really even know what they can build... of right until we illustrated this.

12:16And then again I think this slide just really reinforces those top images on the left; again...

12:21...what they had proposed on the right, the higher-density proposal where we yielded 55 units an acre.

12:31We are just beginning another application of the CI interface; we've been awarded a grant from the...

12:36...Ford Motor Company, they're very interested in building sustainable community.

12:40And, we've modestly proposed that Southwest Detroit will be our region's first net-zero energy community...

12:47...and that we're going to use the interface to help do that.

12:51We've recommended that there are five elements of sustainable community, energy hubs, green economy...

12:56...concentrations of targeted mixed-use density, and green infrastructure that supports enhanced...

13:01...pedestrian mobility, mass transit, and EV fleets.

13:05So we're really just beginning this, and in order to support the project we're going to enhance...

13:10...the interface with modular plug-in for SketchUp.

13:12I'm sure some of you are familiar with that; allows us to create parametrically controlled...

13:17...building forms for urban-scale study.

13:20We're also analyzing and integrating the LEED ND criteria, so that we can assist...

13:26...the community in making decisions about sustainable assets and growth.

13:32So we're encouraged by our results in our initial work in the geodesign process, and we're motivated as geodesign..., such as real-time dynamic assessment, advanced/enhanced the digital interface and our design process.

13:47Detroit serves as the context for our first application, but we modestly believe that the methodology is...

13:54...scalable and replicable, to empower sustainable design of other urbanized regions across the globe.

14:01Our design team looks forward to opportunities to collaborate with additional communities...

14:05...and now with our new geodesign colleagues.

14:08Thank you.

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