Blogpost: GeoDesign

By | Pia Fricker

One of the larger challenges facing urban design today are generic and often dysfunctional designs due to over reliance on AI-informed automated design generators available to design buildings, cities and landscapes. It is time for critical reflection! In a time marked by massive urban growth, over saturated with the diversity and arbitrariness of digital media and rapidly evolving smart city technology, the field of architecture is challenged to rethink conventional ways of city planning and design. The on-going discussions regarding data-handling stress efficiency and productivity, yet, the abundance of data has created a rich pool of resources to support the creation of sustainable solutions to the pressing societal and environmental challenges we are facing globally. Therefore it is vital that the future shapers of our environment be trained in computationally driven data-informed design methods to formulate visionary places for new forms of experiences. 

There is major importance in reintegrating the creative and intuitive notion of design into computational design methods through methods which allow architects and landscape architects to interact with abstract data, as a tangible component in the designing process. This process style creates the capacity to bring designers with real lived experience in real lived space back into influence, to interact with AI and other future technology.    

To address this global problem affecting the quality of our built environment, I (Pia Fricker) in cooperation with Prof. Dr. Hans Skov-Petersen of the University of Copenhagen developed the GeoDesign: Immersive Data Interaction Workshop which took place in Copenhagen in 2019 and at Aalto University, Finland, in 2021. The workshop addressed GeoDesign technologies as a means of recording, representing, decoding and communicating with the complex phenomena in urban and landscape planning processes. Hands-on experience in the area of agent-based modelling and augmented reality data-interaction was merged through a tangible sandbox interaction tool. The development method utilizes the robotic arm for co-designing, informed by local data and in direct exchange with the physical hands-on interaction of the designer in the tangible sandbox. This process oriented, iterative design workflow is not aiming for creating final solutions, but allows the designer to interact with real-time augmented information, in order to integrate a huge variety of information into the design process.

Augmented data-interaction is merged with the tangible sandbox environment, in order to formulate sustainable design speculations from both human and AI perspectives. The student landscape designs addressed acoustic patterns, utilization, comfort, and storm-water runoff. Some of the topics investigated during the workshop were the conditions by which human bodies are made comfortable; in which ways form can create identity; and topographical explorations in traffic flow and vegetation. The understanding of available technology was composed and rearranged in order to support the field specific discourse which led to innovative design speculations, based upon this human-robotic interaction. The developed design methodology emphasizes the importance of design iterations through computationally informed feedback loops. 

The project culminated as part of Aalto University’s Designs for a Cooler Planet for the Helsinki Design Week. The exhibition Mind Meets Machine: Immersive Data-Interaction showcased novel projects in computational design methods to creatively interact with global and local data. The exhibited projects set their focus on the exploration of immersive data-interaction design tools to enhance climate-smart solutions in the urban context. Making the abstract data visible and tangible, to enter a new level of data-informed responsive design with the public’s benefit in mind.

  • Project team: Prof. Dr. Pia Fricker, Kane Borg, and Tina Cerpnjak
  • Exhibition support: Loviisa Luoma
  • Students: Marek Kratochvíl, Kaie Kuldkepp, Hanna-Kaisa Koskinen, Ahti Launis, Riikka Lauri, Emilia Lemmetti, Huixu Li, Loviisa Luoma, Eetu Mykkänen, Teo Rinne, Miisa-Maari Ulmanen, Eetu Mykkänen, Yanxia Qiu, Antti Rantamäki, Shenyu Sun, Laura Tuorila, Huijia Zhuang
  • In cooperation with: Dr. Philip Belesky (RMIT Australia), Mariusz Hermansdorfer (University of Copenhagen /Ramboll DK) and Dr. Ilmar Hurkxkens (ETH Zurich)
  • Special thanks to: Manueal Fonseca, Ilpo Kari and Pekka Salonen, workshop masters of ARTS as well as to ARTS IT team