3D printing can’t build a city (yet), but it can help plan one

What happens when city planning is crowd-sourced, and in 3D no less? Louisville, Ky., Mayor Greg Fischer is finding out with the launch of “Vision Louisville,” an initiative to plan the Louisville of 2040.

“One of my five strategic goals for our city is to create a vibrant vision for Louisville's future,” the mayor said on the initiative’s website. “What will our city look like in 25 years? How do we to harness our collective energy, intelligence and ideas to chart our path to the future, to decide how we want Louisville to look, feel, and flow by mid-century?”

The first opportunity for citizen input came at IdeaFestival, held September 19-22. Five anonymously donated 3D printers at the event used architectural drawings to create 1/1000 scale buildings of the city on the spot, which attendees could place on a city map however they wished.

It’s another example of how public-sector agencies are using emerging 3D printing technology for everything from printing gear for soldiers in Afghanistan to plans for self-building spacecraft.

In Louisville, the idea was to let people use the Lego-like 3D models of city buildings to explore what the city could look like in the future.

"People can pick them up and do what they want with — if somebody breaks something we'll print another one," said Christopher Cprek, leader of LVL1 and coordinator of the printing, at the event, The Atlantic reported. "People have been enthralled with the 3D-printing process."

Using 3D modeling makes it easier to visualize possible changes, Tommy Clark, an urban planner for the city, Government Technology reported.

“If you want to take the largest building in Louisville and remove it and put something else in there, and look at the 3D elements maybe another building may do — you get a whole new perspective when it’s in 3D,” Clark said.

Citizens’ ideas from the 3D interactive model, together with other proposals from IdeaFestival, the Vision Louisville website, the initiative's Twitter feed, and other online and physical forums, will be collected and used as inspiration for the project, which is being led by Oslo-based architectural and planning firm Space Group.

“We've got to engage not only the people who think about this everyday but somebody who might be thinking about it for the first time," Fischer told The Atlantic. "So-called experts frequently are so close to the problem that they can't see the solution. … I want to hit every perspective we have: from rich to poor, to every color and every ethnicity, to refugees and PhDs — everybody."

The initial phase of Vision Louisville – conceptual collaboration between the public and planners – is expected to take a year, Patti Clare, project manager for the initiative, told The Atlantic.

"The public are very important to what that vision is," Clare said. "Around the country I think planners understand that unless there's a real ownership and love of a vision, it's impossible to implement it and keep it part of the culture of the city."

About the Author

Kathleen Hickey is a freelance writer for GCN.

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