Carl Steinitz, research professor at the Graduate School of Design, Harvard delivered a keynote on Day Two at the GeoDesign Summit in Redlands. In his bio, it says that Steinitz has “devoted much of his career to improving methods of landscape planning and design.” He has organized and taught numerous workshops on large and complex landscape design change problems. He has been honored as an outstanding teacher by Harvard University.
With all that said, I believe Steinitz’ message was a little difficult to grasp, yet like all excellent teachers, he had a profound message.
He began by asking, “Why is it when all we measure is quantities we end with bad designs?”
He said he thinks that “what is GeoDesign?” is a social question and that GeoDesign is here to answer questions that are not easily defined.
“Most of the work we’re doing and demonstrating involves problems that are marginally understood and that we presume to understand.in a framewrok with many actors and views,” said Steinitz. “People need to understand the complexity, because we don’t know everything.”
There are four groups- people of the place, design professionals, information technologists, and geographers/scientists involved in this effort. He says we are probably underestimating the difficulty of bringing these all together.
Steinitz says the geographic sciences are premised on the idea of bringing the model built on the past and present into the future. The differences in the cultures of design and science create difficulties in communication between the two sectors.
-Designers think a lot about the future but don’t know anything about the present and past.
-People who are confident in what they do come together with others and create geodesign.
-There is a social system for design – the assumption is the people don’t agree with each other and /or have problem they perceive or don’t perceive.
-The designer’s theory is the scientist’s hypothesis.
- Scale and size matter
-Designers are educated to start small and go big.
-Geographers or scientists start big and go small
Steinitz quoted the Norbert Wiener communciation model (Wiener was a contemporary of Marshall McLuhan) by saying,
Designers generally believe ‘I have a message with a medium and you are expected to understand the meaning.’
Scientists say ‘I’m looking for something in the environment and are you giving it to me?’ The medium is information technology.
Steinitz broke down the types of models we use in assessing landscape with questions:
-How should landscape be described? Representation models
-How does landscape operate? Process models
-Is the current landscape working well? Evaluation models
-How might landscape be altered? Change model
-What predictable differences might the chances cause? Impact models
-How should landscape be changed? Decision model
The decision drives the evaluation, he noted.
“It would be easier to create a model for someone tomorrow than 20-100 years into the future,” Steinitz pointed out. As a big part of the GeoDesign discussion centers around creating an ontology, Steinitz said everyone has to be in the room to create an ontology.
Methods used to do this include: vision or anticipatory, participatory, sequential, combinatorial, constraining, rule-based, optimizing, agent-based.
Steinitz summarized by saying that design and geo are complicated – “geodesign is an art, not a science but depends on science.”
AECOM gave a talk about their SSIM Framework methodology for spatial urban design analysis, which begs the question: What makes a plan inherently more sustainable than another?
Vishal Bhargava, senior associate, Urban Designer, said that Urban Form is the single largest determinant of GHG emissions.
Rather than rely purely on intuitive judgment, the SSIM Framework methodology asks the following questions –
-Which scenario has the least adverse impact on the environment?
-Which scenario has the greatest potential for sustainability?
In the conceptual phase, Bhargava said these are areas of importance to the SSIM Framework –
-Quantification and comparison of performance and plan alternatives
-Conveying the informatin effectively
Key performance indicators –
- Development performance
- Urban design performance
- Access and spatial distribution
- Ecological performacne
- Resource use
- Waste output
Their approach is economics driven, and once these benchmarks and strategies are established, then they do a cost analysis.
Stu Rich, CTO of PenBay Solutions spoke on “Taking GIS Inside Buildings –
Facilities Management and Analysis”
Rich asked the question, why GIS for facilities?
“We’re seeing tremendous growth in urban environments, tremendous building boom, and witnessing the greatest migrations of humanity the world has ever seen,” said Rich. In 2000, we became a predominantly urban species, more people for the first time living in urban environments than in rural. It looks like we are going to be doing this for a longer time. This takes pressure off our agricultural lands, but the implications for urban infrastructure is profound.”
Rich pointed out that 48% of emissions are due to the consumption of raw materials for construction materials. “The greenest building is the one we never build.”
“We need to think about how to address that existing building stock which is unlikely to have the BIM data sets we’ve been talking about,” said Rich.
“How do we apply geodesign to that problem?”
In a nutshell, Rich said we need to extend our thinking to the interior environment – it’s not just about buildings, it’s about processes.
-We need to think of ways to not have to build a new building
-We need to extend geographic scale to interiors of buildings
There were a number of Lightning Talks offered on Friday as well that spilled over into the afternoon session. Presenters included universities, Azavea, and even Autodesk.
I had to catch a flight before the Idea Lab of the afternoon so did not witness the wrap up at the end of the day.