Data Driven (Urban) Design

Research Highlights
January 31, 2017

In the spring of 2016, BBB inaugurated a firm-wide research award competition designed to support innovative ideas that have the potential to positively disrupt BBB’s practice – how we work and how we design. The research awards are sponsored by the firm’s RED – Research Exchange Develop – initiative launched in 2015 and aimed at promoting research; encouraging a culture of open dialogue, creativity, and critical exchange; and fostering development and propagation of ideas and applications that align with BBB’s practice and culture.

Ten provocative proposals – ranging from conceptual ideas and social issues to material, fabrication, and technology – were submitted by individuals and teams from both the New York and Washington DC offices. Two winning teams received stipends after being selected by a blind jury comprised of a cross section of BBB and outside design professionals. Research findings and working process of both teams are currently on display in both BBB offices, and highlights are included in this Story and a related Story on FABRICation.

Data Driven (Urban) Design, comprised of DC and NY staff Scott Archer, Elizabeth Ellington, Caroline VanAcker, and Michael O’Neill, advances the collective knowledge and database of NYC and DC waterfronts, engaging GIS-mapping tools to generate data-rich urban design models.

The Data Driven (Urban) Design research team sought to advance BBB’s collective design knowledge base, leverage data to generate dynamic urban models, test capabilities of procedural modeling to build and analyze data rich models, and establish test sites in NYC and Washington DC for comparison and analysis of regulations, policies, or systems to further inform our urban design practice.

The Anacostia test site in Washington DC is an area with major development pressure. Can procedural modeling, informed by data, aid in determining appropriate development? Edgemere in the Far Rockaways is a test site with land assembly as a form of determinant and extensive resiliency issues. Can data informed design assist in the Edgemere evolution?

Data Driven (Urban) Design explores waterfront sites in both cities to demonstrate how data and procedural modeling can and should be incorporated into concepts of context, process, and narrative. As urban designers, we often find ourselves crafting narratives in support of our designs and interventions in a city. We also often find narratives through our initial analysis that leads us to our designs. Analysis of regulations, such as zoning code, or usage Data such a ridership on a transportation network, can help inform the context of place and ultimately lead to a design provocation. Data Driven (Urban) Design establishes test projects to demonstrate how data and procedural modeling can and should be incorporated into our concepts of context, process, and narrative.

Contextualism is central to BBB’s ethos and practice. We believe that as the profession and technology advances, we must also consider new forms of contextualism. Data resources are growing and expanding at rapid rates. They can come in forms that we are all very familiar with such as US Census Data, or new forms such as Twitter geolocated feedback. Some data is universal and can apply to a number of places or perhaps not even to a specific place, while other data is absolutely tied to a specific place and geolocated. Both forms of data are resources that our profession should consider as a form of contextualism. They inform our understanding of the context in which we are designing. As data continues to broaden and grow, our profession must consider how we can best utilize the resources at hand.

Questions? Comments? Thoughts? Please keep the dialogue and EXCHANGE going by contacting team members Scott, Elizabeth, Caroline and/or Michael.

Related Story on FABRICation.