Future of urban planning

27 March 2017

Emilia Swiecicka

What does dating app Tinder have in common with urban planning? Today city planners are adopting a more inclusive approach to changing skylines, green areas and public spaces, by including the public in the process. Could this be what the future holds for developing cities?

An ongoing debate in the Swedish capital of Stockholm has been the remodelling of Slussen; an important central transport interchange for both cars and pedestrians, initially designed in the 1930s. With current plans revealing the true extent of the remodelling, which is scheduled to take place between 2016 and 2025, these landscape altering proposals have stirred up feelings among the public for the last few years.

Meanwhile, the Californian city of Santa Monica has decided to let the general public decide over new developments in the area. By adapting the model of the popular dating application Tinder, users of CitySwipe can swipe right or left to choose between two options. They can also agree or disagree with a potential building plan and give their opinion on numerous matters. Questions are formulated in a simple yes/no format, allowing people living in the area to offer their input on matters concerning their surroundings, from park benches to bike lanes - as well as new housing establishments.

Considering the debates regarding the Slussen project, perhaps this would have made it easier to reach all social strata of Stockholmers, and get input from a diverse range people from all of age groups.

“The idea of a Tinder-like app is interesting and could potentially attract more younger people to take part in planning for new developments,” says Eva Rosman, who is in charge of communications for the Slussen development.

“One of the challenges in planning for new developments in general is that it is difficult for (Stockholm) to reach all target groups with the traditional meetings and design exhibits. We are now looking at different options to keep an open dialogue around urban planning,” she continues.

Today, many are adopting digital solutions in order to make services easily accessible for users. Urban planning entering the digital era would mean a more active community where citizens could easily take part in shaping what their city should look like. This could potentially both increase public participation and lessen negative publicity as proposed developments commence.

With architectural planning in flux over the past few decades, Swedish architects White Arkitekter are also adapting to future ways of working.

“In my 25 years in practicing architecture, my daily work has transformed from being drawn by hand with pencil on paper – to building information models (BIM) and 3D printing. An architect’s core skill is to visualise unbuilt space and explain its features, and potential. Our tools have changed but our main work stays the same. However the interaction and engagement becomes much easier when you can put your goggles on and walk around in an unbuilt environment and add comments in the digital fi le as you go along,” White Arkitekter partner Linda Thiel tells The LINK.

Landscape altering plans are something that will spark a continuous debate as there is no simple way of catering to all public opinion. In order for the city to grow and become more accessible, it is inevitable that the city adapts and let certain modernisations take place.

“In regards to the Slussen interchange, we have had consultations with many participants and the exhibits have attracted a large number of visitors. A lot of input from the public has been included in this project,” Rosman tells The LINK.

With this new way of gathering insight to the public opinion, decisions are brought closer to the public and give the decisive bodies closer insight to the general neighbourhood needs and wishes. The prospect of involving the younger generations also comes to mind as the digital side of it appeals to them. This will hopefully lead to a greater diversity into opinions voiced.

“It is a possibility to reach out and get input from a generation that might not comment on planning applications the traditional way. So, this could give a wider input on how the residents and users would like to improve their place and space,” says Thiel.

A Tinder for cities could be a step on the way for the future of urban planning and development although critics would no doubt claim it’s set up to be a little onedimensional as questions go no further than than yes or no.

“Solutions like these could possibly be more inclusive – I would probably want to keep both systems and not to forget the importance to moderate comments. Perhaps also, if you like or dislike something, you should automatically get to answer a few ‘whys’ for us to get a better understanding of the input,” Thiel tells The LINK.

Regardless of you view on whether a simple yes and no answer would suffice, this way of gathering information shows that modernisation is taking place. Who would have ever thought a dating application could be combined with urban development?

Soon, we might be swiping yes or no more often and in more areas than one. It is clearly an easily applicable concept to more than who we would like to date. When people thought digitalising services was the way to stay on top of modernisation, CitySwipe shows the buzzword for this industry is instead ‘Tinder’ kicking up the level of transparency in this industry sector by a considerable amount.

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