The Bartlett Centre for Advanced Spatial Analysis


CASA Working Paper 2


1 June 1998

Visual Communication in Urban Planning & Urban Design

This report documents the current status of visual communication in urban design and planning. Visual communication is examined through discussion of standalone and network media, specifically concentrating on visualisation on the World Wide Web (WWW).

Firstly, we examine the use of Solid and Geometric Modelling for visualising urban planning and urban design. This report documents and compares examples of the use of Virtual Reality Modelling Language (VRML) and proprietary WWW based Virtual Reality modelling software. Examples include the modelling of Bath and Glasgow using both VRML 1.0 and 2.0. A review is carried out on the use of Virtual Worlds and their role in visualising urban form within multi-user environments. The use of Virtual Worlds is developed into a case study of the possibilities and limitations of Virtual Internet Design Arenas (ViDAs), an initiative undertaken at the Centre for Advanced Spatial Analysis, University College London. The use of Virtual Worlds and their development towards ViDAs is seen as one of the most important developments in visual communication for urban planning and urban design since the development plan.

Secondly, photorealistic media in the process of communicating plans is examined. The process of creating photorealistic media is documented, examples of the Virtual Streetscape and Wired Whitehall Virtual Urban Interface System are provided. The conclusion is drawn that although the use of photo-realistic media on the WWW provides a way to visually communicate planning information, its use is limited. The merging of photorealistic media and solid geometric modelling is reviewed in the creation of Augmented Reality. Augmented Reality is seen to provide an important step forward in the ability to quickly and easily visualise urban planning and urban design information.

Thirdly, the role of visual communication of planning data through GIS is examined in terms of desktop, three dimensional and Internet based GIS systems. The evolution to Internet GIS is seen as a critical component in the development of virtual cities which will allow urban planners and urban designers to visualise and model the complexity of the built environment in networked virtual reality.

Finally a viewpoint is put forward of the Virtual City, linking Internet GIS with photorealistic multi-user Virtual Worlds. At present there are constraints on how far virtual cities can be developed, but a view is provided on how these networked virtual worlds are developing to aid visual communication in urban planning and urban design.

This working paper is available as a PDF. The file size is 2.9MB.

Authors: Andrew Hudson-Smith, Martin Dodge, Simon Doyle

Publication Date: 1/6/1998

Download working paper No. 2.