blockitecture leaderboard

New Center Seeks to Take the Guesswork out of Planning

Researchers at the University of Chicago are tackling a problem that is confronting the globe's biggest cities: how to turn the reams of data being collected and opened to the public and turn it into actionable information for decision-makers.

Sam Cholke reports on the aspirations of the new Urban Center for Computation and Data (UrbanCCD), which "will apply the most advanced computational and data-driven techniques to the challenge of intelligent urban planning and design." Funded with an initial $600,000 grant from the National Science Foundation, and led by computer scientist Charlie Catlett, the Center is a joint initiative between the University of Chicago and Argonne National Laboratory.

With an unprecedented volume and diversity of data being made available to the public and researchers, "Catlett and a collection of doctors, urban planners and social scientists want to analyze that data so to solve urban planning puzzles in some of Chicago’s most distressed neighborhoods and eliminate the old method of trial and error," says Cholke.

“Right now we look around and look for examples where something has worked or appeared to work,” said Keith Besserud, an architect at Skidmore, Owings and Merrill's Blackbox Studio and part of the new center. “We live in a city, so we think we understand it, but it’s really not seeing the forest for the trees, we really don’t understand it.”

"Besserud said urban planners have theories but lack evidence to know for sure when greater density could improve a neighborhood, how increased access to public transportation could reduce unemployment and other fundamental questions," notes Cholke.

Could UrbanCCD provide that scientific foundation that those within and outside the planning profession have been clamoring for?

“We’re going to try to break down some of the really tough problems we’ve never been able to solve,” Besserud said. “The issue in general is the field of urban design has been inadequately served by computational tools.”

Full Story: Researchers Say Much to Be Learned from Chicago's Open Data


building block set

NEW! Build the world you want to see

Irresistible block set for adults when placed on a coffee table or desk, and great fun for kids.
Red necktie with map of Boston

For dads and grads: tie one on to celebrate your city!

Choose from over 20 styles imprinted with detailed city or transit maps.

NEW! Get the "Green Bible"

Understand the complexities of planning at the local level while preparing for the AICP* exam. Find out why this edition is included in the APA's recommended reading list.
T-shirt with map of Chicago

Show your city pride

Men's Ultrasoft CityFabric© tees. Six cities available.