May 31 2012

From Top-Down to Bottom-Up in Urban Planning: How your Firm or Agency Can Benefit From Crowdsourcing

Plan Voisin by Le Corbusier (1925)

When Le Corbusier made his famous Plan Voisin proposal in 1925, he was basically designing, not just a city, but an ideal life for the users who were going to live there. That’s how the concept of “towers in a park” came about, and it parceled the urban planning programs all over the world in the post-war period. It still continues to do so in some countries (including Turkey). It was a design that required the users to be “designed” as well, according to the vision of the planner. A plan can hardly ever get more top-down than that.

However, the times are changing, not just in architecture, but in every aspect of our lives. Internet has brought a new way of social lifestyle, in which we have fully customizable spaces, and we can share anything we want and as fast as we wish. Given this context, can we find a way to incorporate this rapid exchange between people into how we design our cities? This requires a serious shift in conception on how we look at planning, including asking the following direct question to ourselves:

Are slums bad or can they be a part of the solution?

Mahatma Gandhi Road in Dharavi, always a busy spot

There are some projects that have been attempting to involve the public in the planning process, arguably the most successful of them being the Favela-Bairro Project in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. The fairly new term “crowdsourcing” might be a promising solution in adjusting our cities; taking advantage of the participatory power of the internet.

In Dharavi, India, a group called URBZ, believes in the power of “the practice of ‘urbanology,’ which relies on understanding and documenting urban ecosystems through direct engagement with people and places – charting homegrown practices in the fields of housing, artisanship and trade, and the physical and theoretical spaces where these fields converge.” This is the inevitable change that needs to happen in urban planning.

In short, crowdsourcing, the simple solution of going out and talking to people, or using the web in more well-off areas, can be a great way of collecting much needed data, just like URBZ is doing, because usually what we assume people would need doesn’t necessarily correlate with what they actually want. Firms and agencies in the designing and planning sector should start tuning their expertise towards this area, because new methodologies that were unimaginable in data analysis 10 years ago is now possible, and they open up great potentials, especially in spatial terms.

What kind of possibilities can crowdsourcing open up in terms of spatial development that was not possible with the conventional methods of planning?

Credits: Image and data linked to sources.

Erman Eruz

Erman Eruz is a graduate student at Rice University where he is pursuing a Master's Degree in Architecture. He graduated from Princeton University with a Bachelor of Science in Civil Engineering, along with certificates in Architecture and Urban Studies. Having grown up in Istanbul, Turkey, he is interested in a wide variety of topics related to the built environment and how people interact with it. Erman is fascinated by the interdisciplinary relation between architecture, engineering and urban planning. His main interests are urban housing in large cities and the relationship between technology and architectural production.

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This entry was posted on Thursday, May 31st, 2012 at 7:44 pm and is filed under Architecture, Community/Economic Development, Environment, Environmental Design, Housing, Social/Demographics, Urban Development/Real Estate, Urban Planning and Design. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.


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