Do not Plan: Play the City!

Negotiation and Design for the Self Organizing City

City Design Game in process

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Rule-based city design games running on interactive platforms (whether physical, virtual, or both) can facilitate multi-actor processes.

Ekim Tan will theorize their development and role in urban planning at the upcoming 'Complexity, Cognition, Urban Planning and Design' Conference.

City design games are potent tools for spatial planning for three reasons:

First, they are rule-based. Any complex urban system relies on common dynamic rules.

Second, they enable the inclusion of numerous actors. Any complex urban system relies on agents with differing powers and interests.

Third, they allow negotiation between engaged players resulting in interactive learning. Complex urban systems rely on smart agents interacting to learn.

City simulation games are familiar within the Dutch context; they have been effectively used in academic research and education, policy development, and to implement change [Caluwe, 2012]. This paper, to be presented at the Second International Conference at TU DElft's Faculty of Architecture (10-12 October 2013), contributes to this debate and claims that city games can go beyond learning, simulation and triggering behavioral change.

City games can be generative.

They can provide a constantly learning, negotiated and adapting planning process for the production of spatial developments. The interactive game interface allows parallel decision-making by engaged players with diverse agencies, and its 3D environment offers direct visualization of their coexisting interests, both complimentary and conflicting. City gaming is a unique tool through which the parameters of policy making and spatial design can simultaneously inform an ongoing urban development process.

In the conference Complexity, Cognition, Urban Planning and Design, we will present the evolution of city design games organized by Play the City since 2009. First tested with a group of design, sociology and anthropology students in Almere Haven has become a tool cities, architecture and art institutions started using to address urban complex issues, develop shared visions, resolve conflict and even build temporary towns. City game as a self-organizing system has been evolving into a method where design, RFID technologies, parametric urban design, role-playing, monetary mechanisms are integrated based on the given urban question.
In the conclusion section of this paper, we plan to start theorizing on different types of city design games and their most suitable uses in the urban planning and design practice.