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Visual Communication in Urban Planning and Urban Design

Editorial Introduction

Within the social sciences, urban planning has always had a strongly visual tradition. Perhaps this is because both its successes and failures are there on the ground for all of us to see. Sometimes the results are aesthetically pleasing, sometimes not, but there is an asymmetry here in that we do not "see" the successes of urban planning when these involve decisions to prevent undesirable change.

In planning design has a long history in both education and the studio, but until recently this work was two-dimensional, limited by the paper medium either to a plan form map or an artist's impression of a three dimensional structure. Often too, developments were mapped and illustrated in isolation, separated from the environments into which they were to be placed. The basic tools used were the digital alternative to a map, the GIS and the computer aided design package.

An obvious, but nonetheless technically challenging development is to build on these tools to develop virtual reality models of actual and proposed urban developments. Once these are available digitally, it becomes possible to explore them, either singly or in collaboration with others, and to share them over the World Wide Web, and visualization becomes an integral part of these virtual cities.

In this Case Study, Andy Smith, Martin Dodge and Simon Doyle review work in this field, drawing for much of the time on their own work at the Centre for Advanced Spatial Analysis, University College London.

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