Modelling, Simulation and Visualization


In general, spatial modelling and simulation allow depicting a complex reality in a simple manner in order to explore and evaluate a priori interventions and their spatial impacts (Voigt 2011).

3D models and visualisations are commonly used to overcome lack of communication between different parties (e.g. laypeople, general public and planners) as they can translate conventional drawings into a format being more understood (Pietsch 1999, Hall 1996). Lack of communication and lack of mutual understanding regarding spatial problems can lead to an inconsistency in the planning and design process. Hence, a 3D model often works as a communication tool and can be seen as supporting tool for a decision making process for improving the built environment and further a sustainable and sustaining one (Roupé, Johansson 2010).


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With the use of 3D models and visualizations the discussion about objectivity is inherently interwoven. Beside the independent 3D modeller as ideal, 3D objects promise based on that the model is a geometric object in a software program the possibility of many viewpoints available including the control over the parameters. Many viewpoints and parameter control (interactive models) is also part of presentations in a virtual reality (VR) environment. Problematic about this view as also represented by Hall (1992) is that exactly these various viewpoints hinder objectivity and support a subjective view on the scenario under scrutiny. Data itself stay objective, but by manipulation and processing they can generate subjective images of the a priori objective model.


What makes 3D models and their presentation in a VR environment so interesting to work with is two-fold. On one hand, the transparancy of data and the induced awareness-raising process based on the multi-scale variety of viewpoints; secondly, the allowness to interrogate a data base.

The added value of 3D models and visualisations as well as simulations is that it can create a new dynamic in discussions and collaborative urban design processes.

Thus, we can summarise that modelling and simulation-assisted experimentation with the built environment can be regarded as an essential contribution to the configuration of our living environment. There is a great need for supporting complex planning and decision-making processes with state of the art modelling and simulation equipment and ideas.


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Following criteria can be applied (Voigt et al. 2009):


- optimum clarity and comprehensibility for laypersons and experts (Sheppard 1989)

- support of decision-making processes of the team and planning processes in general (Schönwandt 1999)

- combination of planning- and project-related information (quantitative and qualitative information, visual and numerical information), synoptic presentation (synthesizing overview)

- real-time simulation  


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