The Urban Informatics team here at Arup is in the practice of designing for the best possible experience of cities. This leads to an interesting idea -> developing the software of cities. This software could be defined in the behaviours and the information about how cities work, and the hearts and minds of people using it.
If the buildings, and the physical infrastructure form the hardware, how does the city’s software affect the way we live? What does the digitally connected always on reality mean for the way we can be in and use the world?
It’s exciting to imagine what the future of place might hold. Work place, entertainment place, quiet place, transit place, growing space, or eating place. What could it be like with these layers of soft infrastructure built in?
How will this fluidity of information affect behaviour in the cities within which we reside? Can we move towards communities that meet more of our innate human needs, without leaning so heavily on the world’s resources to get those needs met?
In Informatics we think that this is possible, and the key is to make sure that the human impacts of design decisions are keenly kept in awareness throughout the design process. Firstly by gaining a full and measurable understanding of how people use and will be using a space. Then by creating the environment that facilitates human interaction and people’s activities to flourish, the space can naturally be used in a way that is sustainable.
The soft layers of the city, help us to measure the patterns of activity, and then to display and develop patterns of use, to guide people’s behaviour post-occupancy.
The nature of these places (be it a single office, a building, a precinct or a whole system) is inherently connected. The design process therefore must use a sort of joined up thinking, an integrated and holistic view of the way this place relates to the rest of the city.
The soft layers that we create for people link them to information and people to guide this understanding of connectedness, physically and functionally. When people come together in communities of understanding, sustainable practices will play out in their behaviour.