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Critically review the role of three-dimensional photorealistic simulations in the public engagement exercise throughout the urban design process and suggest improvement measures

Critically review the role of three-dimensional photorealistic simulations in the public engagement exercise throughout the urban design process and suggest improvement measures

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  • Critically review the role of three-dimensional photorealisticsimulations in the public engagement exercise throughout the urban design process and suggest improvement measuresName: Fan Man Lok, DarrenStudent ID: 09227211DIntroductionFor urban design, shaping the environment similar to the reality is the key factor. Thepresentation should be combined with visual and descriptive information to showthe changes after the implementation of the design. There are lots of ways forpresentations, including two-dimensional plans, maps, perspective sketches,three-dimensional drawings and also three-dimensional models. Such presentationsshould be an effective way to deliver the visual information to the participants.However, the participants, especially for the public with no education background,often face difficulties in understanding the spatial relationship of the design due tothe limitations of the mentioned communication media. These may lead tomiscommunication and mistrust between the urban designers and the participants.To minimize the information gaps among the stakeholders and provide acollaborative urban design communication medium, there is a need for an effectiveinformation delivery tool. Thus, three-dimensional photorealistic simulations havebeen proposed on urban design process. This paper would address the roles ofthree-dimensional photorealistic simulations in the public engagement exercisethroughout the urban design process and suggest improvement measures of thistechnology for urban planning and urban design.Public EngagementIn Hong Kong, urban planning used a top-down approach traditionally as the designof land use was decided by public office and planners only. Although there would bepublic consultation for every planning proposal, this method is still notcomprehensive enough. The view and disagreement from the public cannot beeffectively absorbed as the consultation part usually conducts at the later stage ofplanning process. The planning decisions are nearly finalized and only important
  • issues would be allowed to alter. Thus, the public engagement exercise was proposedon planning issues in the past few years.As stated in Wikipedia (2011), public engagement is a term to describe theinvolvement of specialists developing their understanding based on the interactionwith non-specialists. It emphasizes the communication between the stakeholders.Participation of different parties allows exchange of views and opinions, thus toachieve a final decision based on consensus rather than coercion of power.According to Ng, F. and Kwok, A. (2007), public engagement exercise usually consistsof five parts. The first part is brainstorming session. Usually local communities,concern groups, professional institutes, business sectors and academics would beinvited to generate some creative design ideas, views and visions. The second part isthe random sample survey and interviews. Interviewees would be selected randomlyfor the sample survey, but for the structured interviews, the target would be theend-users and professionals. The third part is the workshop session. The objective ofthe Workshop is to achieve some consensus on the derived design schemes. Thefourth part is the exhibition part. Different design ideas would be presented at thepanels and questionnaire would be distributed to collect views on the preference ofthe various design ideas. And the last part is the public forum. The aim is to provide aplatform for open public discussion on the design concepts and the ultimate goal isto form the basis of the design according to public choice.From the experience of implementing public engagement exercise in planning issuesin Hong Kong, it is found that there are several advantages for public participation.Firstly, the project costs can be minimized. As the cost for urban development ismainly from the tax, the tax payers are concerned whether their taxes are wasted orused for unnecessary expenditures. Thus they are willing to actively participate in theurban design process. Secondly, with public participation, there would be moreviewpoints and opinions as different parties can be involved to achieve a finaldecision based on consensus. Thus the final urban design proposal can better fulfillthe social needs and face less objection from the public as their voice had beenabsorbed and considered. Also, as stated by Ng, F. and Kwok, A. (2007), the creativitycan be enhanced as lay-knowledge may be transformed into great concepts throughlay-professional collaboration.Roles of three-dimensional photorealistic simulationsThree-dimensional photorealistic simulation is a recent technology to deliver visualinformation for collaborative urban design. A variety of three-dimensional
  • photorealistic simulation tools have been developed in the last decade, includingAutoCAD, 3D Studio Max, ArcGIS, Site Builder 3D, Multigen Creator and GoogleSketchUp. These tools are parallel with the advanced computer technology, and playan important role in decision making of urban design process.With three-dimensional photorealistic simulation, a three-dimensional replicacommunity can be constructed according to the urban planner’s proposal. It allowsthe users to have a chance to experience the virtual scene about the futuredevelopment. Any impacts that bring by the development can also be foreseen. Thus,the public can have a clearer understanding on the design as it is similar to the realityand the spatial relationship can be easily identified and understood. Then the publicmay express their productive feedbacks and increase the collaboration andcommunication between different parties. In overall, the 3D visualization canincrease public’s interest and their involvement in the urban design processcomparing with using the two-dimensional techniques. It works like a visual languageto communicate between the urban planners and the public, and allow the public toenter a virtual scene to experience the proposed future environment.In public engagement exercise, there are always discussions on the design ideas. Theresidents usually raise their ideas to the urban designer. However, the expression canonly be in words or speeches. Thus the urban designers may not clearly understandwhat the residents think indeed. However, with the aid of three-dimensionalphotorealistic simulation tool, this can be solved. Three-dimensional photorealisticsimulation tools support real-time visualization. The urban designers can visualize thepublic’s ideas in real-time, and analyze whether they are feasible and explain to thepublic immediately by comparing the new design alternatives with the original design.Therefore, the three-dimensional photorealistic simulation tools can bring a multidirectional discussion environment and these interactions can catch public’sattention and increase their interest on the urban planning issues. The ultimate goalis to achieve an informed decision on the design of future development of thecommunity.According to Kim, D. H. &Bejleri, I. (n.d.), three-dimensional photorealistic simulationtools can integrate the visual and non-visual data into one common environment.Also, it can provide data query and spatial analysis functions to help the urbanplanners have a better understanding on site conditions and its relationship to thesurroundings, including the study in the changes in the trend of city’s skyline andlandform, and how to control urban sprawl, as stated by Kim, D. H. (n.d.). View slide
  • Improvement AreasThree-dimensional photographic simulation has been regarded as a new informationdelivery tool in urban design process. Most urban planning projects around the worldwould apply this technique to produce a three-dimensional photorealistic simulationmodel of the project area. However, the technology is still not being fully utilized inthe urban planning process.The first issue is that the three-dimensional photorealistic simulation models areone-time purpose only. After the project has finished, the models would not be usedagain. Thus, the efforts to build the model are wasted and the cost for building suchmodels would be high as it would be classified as short-term expense. In fact, theGovernment can consider reusing the existing 3D urban models and building a largethree-dimensional photorealistic simulation model covering all the regions of HongKong. This model would be cooperated with a large-scale database and be kept onupdating. Once there are other new urban design proposals, the planners can simplydevelop their design in the large model and check whether there are conflictsbetween the proposal area and neighboring areas. Also, this can avoid theGovernment to have redundant expenditures and efforts on 3D modeling.Some people may criticize that developing such a large three-dimensionalphotorealistic simulation model would be costly and ineffective. In fact, there aresome examples around the world showing that building such models would bebeneficial. According to Ben Delaney (2000), Los Angeles had been constructed for athree-dimensional photorealistic model. The whole covering area is several hundredsquare miles. Aerial photos, GPS data, street maps and eye-level photos are used tocreate the model. All the models are texture-mapped for their facades and eachstructure has a URL attached to include the relevant information. Also, ESRI hasdeveloped a Mobile Mapping System (MMS), which enables to have high resolutionpanoramic images from a moving vehicle or human being. The pixel of images wouldbe geo-referenced with three-dimensional coordinates. Trees, street lamps and otherstreet furniture can easily be captured and thus the three-dimensional photorealisticsimulation would be more easily done.Firstly, all the design can be reviewed and compared with the neighborhood area. Itis obvious to notice if there are conflicts nearby. So such model can act as anassistance tool to help the architects to design the buildings with consideration ofthe neighboring environment.Secondly, it can be checked whether the new design has obscured the other View slide
  • buildings’ view. As stated by Delaney, B. (2000), in 1997, a virtual Philadelphia wasbuilt for the construction of a new baseball stadium near the city center. Then avirtual stadium was built in the model. When the planners navigated the stadium atground level in the virtual scene, they found that the outfield scoreboard hadobscured the City Hall, which is the heart of the city. After that, they reoriented thestadium so that the view of City Hall would not be obscured anymore. This exampledemonstrates the value of building a large model.Thirdly, such huge model can be utilized in different purposes apart fromcollaborative urban design. Nowadays, the simulation tools can provide somefunctions for planners to investigate the solution for growth development andsustainable development, as suggested by Delaney, B. (2000).Lastly, the three-dimensional photorealistic model can combine with different GISlayers for different purposes of all departments. For example, the Police Force canuse the model to investigate the crime and simulate the crime scene in a digital way.The Leisure and Cultural Services department can use the model to build a databaseof historical structures and trees, and investigate which should be preserved. Thus,the cost for building a huge model can be shared among the participatingdepartments and they all can take the advantages of the three-dimensionalphotorealistic urban model.The second issue is the computer requirement problem. As the three-dimensionalphotorealistic simulation tools need to handle a large amount of data, the loadingtime of the simulation scene would be very long with the current computertechnologies. The navigation speed would also decrease with a large set of data. Thiswould be inappropriate and impractical when the discussions perform. The publicmay be distracted while waiting for the loading of data. Moreover, the storage ofdata is in unit of terabytes. Thus advanced computer technologies are needed to bedeveloped, otherwise the latest simulation technologies can only be limitedly appliedto urban planning.The third issue is that the public may have a desire to explore the virtual scene offuture development on their behalves, suggested by Kim, D. H. (2005). However,nowadays, the test environment does not support their control on the tools. Thus,the Government can provide computers during the exhibition part of publicengagement exercise to allow the participants to navigate the virtual environment bythemselves, with technicians nearby to provide assistance. Thus, the participants
  • would have a better understanding on different design ideas by having explorationand investigation of the details through the computer scene, rather than watching ashort video navigating the virtual scene with a predefined route. Then the publicwould choose the one closest to their expected life and more feedbacks would becollected. Thus the collaborative urban design process can be achieved better.ConclusionThree-dimensional photorealistic simulation has a much better information deliverycapability comparing with the two-dimensional media. It can visualize a virtual scenewhich allows the users to interact with, in which the scene could be at present, in thepast and in the future. It enables the users to add or remove structures to observethe impacts brought to the environment. Also, it acts as a communication media forurban planners and other stakeholders to achieve an informed decision on urbanplanning issues, by attracting more participants to involve in the urban design issues.Topographic studies and climate studies can also be investigated throughapplyingthree-dimensional photorealisticurban simulation.Although there are several advantages to apply three-dimensional photorealisticurban simulation on urban planning issues, some areas have been found to beimproved in order to fully utilize the new simulation technologies. There is certainly aneed to build a huge three-dimensional photorealistic urban model covering thewhole Hong Kong regions. Many urban models are dumped after the projects havefinished. In fact, these models can be reused. And a large-scale database would beconstructed to store the attribute data and integrate with the large model. Differentdepartments can make use of the model for their own purposes, like investigatingcrimes, foretasting environmental changes and helping preserve historic structures.Although building a city wide three-dimensional photorealistic simulation modelrequires enormous amount of money and labor, it would be worth to achieve it as itwould bring long-term benefits to Hong Kong in the decade of Generation Z.ReferencesBhattarai, P. (2007). 3D Visualization and Urban Simulation. : University at Buffalo.Delaney, B. (2000). Visualization in Urban Planning: They Didnt Build LA in aDay, IEEE Computer Graphics and Applications, vol. 20, no. 3, pp. 10-16Kim, D. H. (n.d.). 3D Visual Urban Simulation: Methods and Applications. Korean
  • Local Administration Review .Kim, D. H. (2005). THREE-DIMENSIONAL URBAN SIMULATION FOR COLLABORATIVEURBAN DESIGN. : UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA.Kim, D. H.&Bejleri,I. (n.d.). Using 3D GIS Simulation for Urban DesignNg, F. & Kwok, A. (2007).CHarMing the Victoria Harbourfront – Public EngagementModel on Planning Issue in Hong Kong. World Academy of Science, Engineering andTechnology 28, pp. 117-120.Public engagement - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia (2011). Retrieved October 12,2011 from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Public_engagement