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Citizen Engagement through Design Space Exploration

A design engagement exercise in the design space exploration interface Beta.Speckle (left). Overview of the design space (right).


In the scope of my engagement at the Future Cities Laboratory in Singapore, I developed an approach for citizen engagement, which allows designers to share a parametric design space with a lay-audience. In the scope of a collaboration the approach was tested using the application Beta.Speckle and evaluated in a user study, in which participants were asked to select a preferred urban layout for a  site in Tanjong Pagar, Singapore. Participants could explore the given design space by varying building typology, density, streetscape and block size.

Analysis of the design exercise uncovered the preferences and values of participants and how these affected the choice of specific design variants. A preference for visual order resulted in the selection of visually simple, organised and balanced proposals, as well as proposals that provided visual consistency in relation to the surrounding context. Values of walkability resulted in a preference of narrower streetscapes, values of an accessible, green, sustainable and liveable urban neighbourhood in a balanced distribution of built-up, open, and street spaces with limited density. Economic considerations related to land scarcity led to the choice of high density layouts and the social value of community resulted in a preference for the block typology offering communal spaces. For the future design of exercises it was therefore concluded that the definition of indicators relating to citizens’ values and preferences will allow for a more effective exploration of the design space and provide more meaningful results.

Although Beta.Speckle was considered easy to use, issues with the usability and usefulness were detected. Possible improvements relate to the presentation of the model, as well as the user interface and functionality of the tool. Nevertheless, the investigation has shown that the approach provides an interesting avenue to support the exchange between expert and laypeople in urban design. Future work in the area should include investigations into the impact of the approach on the expert design process.



Katja Knecht (FCL), Dimitrie A. Stefanescu (UCL), Reinhard Koenig (AIT)



Knecht, K., Stefanescu, D. A., & Koenig, R. (2019). Citizen Engagement through Design Space Exploration: Integrating citizen knowledge and expert design in computational urban planning. In Proceedings of the 37th eCAADe Conference, Vol. 1, pp. 785–794. paper