ASPECT’s approach is to create their own new software, harnessing the power of game engines. After several years of experience in visualisation, we were able to synthesise a standard set of interactivity features from the participant’s needs, such as viewing from any angle, real-time shadowing, measuring, and GIS data import. Since many projects will already have rich 3D information, or a full model for the purpose of rendering or animation, we can create interactive models simply by importing the existing data into our software, ready to present at a workshop or community consultation.
As part of the Revitalising Central Dandenong project, an interactive model was developed comprising City Street and Station North Plaza and several surrounding blocks. In workshops with VicUrban (and other internal stakeholders), the model successfully investigated the impact of several development scenarios. The ability to raise and lower the heights of proposed buildings and change the width of the plaza allowed the rapid resolution of issues surrounding impact on view lines and overshadowing. The model was particularly useful in external workshops where the design team was confident that the public was viewing the proposed design in an accurate context.
Interactive environments can also be used on larger scale projects. For example, Banyule City Council’s Municipal Model incorporates a digital terrain of their entire municipality with major Activity Centres and structure plans modelled. Council actively uses the model to develop and communicate a vision for the future of the city, describe design guidelines for development to achieve good design and explore changes for a better planning scheme for good design. The Municipal Model was used in a design charette for Burgundy Street where possible built form scenarios were immediately visualised and reviewed in community consultation. Banyule City Council’s ability to create an active discussion with the community led to The Heidelberg Project being recognised by the Planning Institute of Australia, at the 2009 Victorian Awards Ceremony.
Interactive 3D environments using game engines provide efficiencies in gaining consensus from a wide range of decision makers. By using the game engine to turn design parameters into user-friendly interactivity in a 3D model, multiple development scenarios can be quickly tested. By empowering strategic planners and decision makers through interactive 3D environments, we can focus on the implementation of better urban design.