Integrating Urban Design and Analytics

Presentation by Andres Sevtsuk, Assistant Professor of Urban Planning at the Harvard Graduate School of Design

Noon - 1:30 on Thursday, November 2 in room S354, CGIS South Building, 1730 Cambridge St.


Urban design and urban analytics have emerged as equally important, but separate fields of scholarship. Those concerned with design, work with a forward-looking epistemology, assessing ideas based on their normative merits in an uncertain future. Those who work in urban analytics, use social, natural and computer science methods to explain urban phenomena as they are now or as they were in the past. The difference between forward- versus backward-looking orientation has kept the disciplines apart and created a methodological as well as practical divide, whereby good urban analytics do not necessarily lead to good urban design, nor does good urban design require good urban analytics. Investigating this divide, I explore how the domains of design and analysis can be better integrated in an exploratory design process, using two projects as examples. The projects include a planned integration of light rail stations in Surabaya with the surrounding urban fabric with the aim of supporting higher ridership, and a planned placement and sizing of community retail and service clusters into newly designed large-scale public housing environments in Singapore. In both cases, an iterative design - analysis process required a) that normative goals be determined for assessing design outcomes, b) that well-defined measurement techniques be adopted to evaluate how closely the goals are achieved in each design scenario and c) that numerous design scenarios be generated and tested via computerized simulations. To generalize the processes, their pros and cons, I discuss which types of urban design problems an integrated design-analysis approach is suitable for and what this could mean for urban analytics curricula in urban planning degree programs. 


Andres Sevtsuk is an Assistant Professor of Urban Planning at the Harvard Graduate School of Design. His most recent research has focuses on developing new spatial network analytic tools for planners and designers and on analyzing the spatial distribution of retail and food service establishments in cities globally. His work also addresses tools and methods for modeling and designing pedestrian-oriented urban environments. Andres has worked with a number of city governments, international organizations, planning practices and developers on urban designs, plans and policies in both developed and rapidly developing urban environments, most recently including those in Indonesia, Singapore, Estonia and the US. He is the author of the Urban Network Analysis toolbox, which is used by researchers and practitioners around the world to study spatial relationships in cities along networks. He has led various international research projects; exhibited his research at TEDx, the World Cities Summit and the Venice Biennale; and received the President’s Design Award in Singapore, International Buckminster Fuller Prize and Ron Brown/Fulbright Fellowship. He was previously an Assistant Professor of Architecture and Planning at the Singapore University of technology and Design (SUTD), and a lecturer at MIT.



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