Using visuals and models to communicate cities or Urban Geography has its merits, BUT!
This post was originally on LinkedIn
A post about using Urban Rooms to communicate cities and Urban Geography was in my Twitter timeline earlier today. The basic concept of an Urban Room is where a room is set aside and a 3D model of a City is built with the public allowed in to view and comment on both the current state of the City and possible future urban projects to said City.
The adage of a picture speaks a thousand words is one thing while a model representation would speak even more given most humans are visual thinkers (that is pictures or models do a better job at explaining than just a wall-o-text on a PDF.
The post concerned was this one:
Urban rooms: where people get to design their city’s future
I have seen both the physical and simulated (was then Sim City 4 where as now it is Cities Skylines) versions of the Urban Room where Urban Geography was laid out for the general public. The good thing about Urban Rooms is that they make Urban Geography very accessible to those with or without access to the internet but there is that massive BUT!
Where is the Urban Room located?
That is fine doing an Urban Room for Auckland BUT we would need more than one as the City Centre would not simply cut it in terms of accessibility or equity.
Auckland is large and can be divided into four sub-regions (Central, West, North and South) with South Auckland the largest sub region in terms of population with Central Auckland or the Isthmus behind that. In terms of growth again the South is the fastest growing area with the Isthmus just squeaking in behind (Source: Auckland Transport Alignment Project 2018).
Cross-city travel whether by car or transit is expensive and time consuming so building a single Urban Room in Auckland City Centre would deny access to easily 60% of the population (especially those without a car or on shift work).
Given this issues pointed out by Radio NZ today (see below) denying 60% of the population access to being able to communicate their thoughts and ideas on Auckland’s Urban Geography is both not smart and also inequitable.
White Noise in Auckland; how Auckland Council needs to be dynamic in reaching its citizens when talking Auckland Plan
How do we fix this? We have more than one Urban Room in Auckland each tailored to the specific sub region they represent. So one in Manukau for the South, one in Westgate for the West, one in Albany for the North and of course the City Centre as the central one. Westgate, Albany and Manukau are also Nodes under the Auckland Plan 2050 as well.
By having Urban Rooms in each of our Nodes representing their respective sub-regions then the entire population of Auckland is captured and can access this wonderful Urban Geography tool. It would also make consultations for things like the Auckland Plan much easier as well.
Remember that virtual urban rooms can also help express ideas as well as testing them as well especially as urban simulators become more advanced and accessible to every-day users: The Wayless Travel – the Trans-Manukau Link Road. Part Two with City Geometries #CitiesSkylines
In conclusion: yes Urban Rooms would be a great concept for a City as diverse as Auckland but please to make it accessible to all they need to be placed outside of the City Centre as well.