Engaging citizens in planning of green spaces with virtual reality

Artikkelikuva: Engaging citizens in planning of green spaces with virtual reality

In Helsinki, local citizens got to experiment with the planning of green areas with the Green Kalasatama mobile application. The app is one of the new digital tools created to support the planning of green infrastructure.

Green spaces play a key part in ensuring the wellbeing of people and nature in cities. Within the Nordic Healthy Cities project, the Nordic cities are searching for new ways for developing healthy, inclusive, and green neighbourhoods. Forum Virium Helsinki has coordinated the agile piloting programme on the topic with Vantaa, Stavanger, Copenhagen, Kristiansand as participating cities. 

During 2021, Agile Pilots were run in three Nordic District Urban labs. One of Helsinki’s innovation districts, Kalasatama, served as a lab to develop new digital tools to support the planning of green infrastructure. There local citizens got to test a new tool and co-develop the green areas with augmented reality with Green Kalasatama mobile application, developed by company Granlund

“In the pilot we were able to test  the use of augmented reality on a city scale, and develop an application that can be fun and educative for the residents. The co-creation activities and testing  were important for the development as we received meaningful feedback from the users. During the piloting period, we were able to improve the application and add new features and I think we got a good result.” Francisco Forns Samso, Innovation Manager, Granlund.

The application allows users to place green elements, such as trees and bushes, in their surrounding area in a virtual environment. With augmented reality, new landscape designs can be better visualised before they are completed in real life. Residents found the Green Kalasatama application as an informative, yet playful approach for exploring upcoming plans and different design options for new green spaces in their own neighbourhood that is still under construction.

“For us urban planners, new digital tools like this are really versatile and convenient. They illustrate to the residents and for ourselves the end result of what we are aiming for and what kind of plans are implemented in the area.”  Pia Kilpinen, Zoning Architect from the  City of Helsinki.

Digital modelling supports participatory planning of green infrastructure. The city of Helsinki has ambitions for digitising urban planning and finding new ways to support the development of greener neighbourhoods. In Kalasatama, Helsinki’s smart city district, B.Green project explores the virtualisation and 3D model of the new residential areas in the district. The aim is to support the planning and implementation of green infrastructure solutions already at an early stage of the planning process. Steps towards a digital model of Kalasatama’s green infrastructure include a digital plant library of Finnish trees and plants, using XR-solution for mapping existing trees with drones and simulating urban runoff and storm waters with virtual models. 

More reading