||Fundamentally, the design of communities in the United States is grounded in the Constitution’s evolving definition of property and the rights and obligations attendant to the ownership and use of real property. The rearticulation of Jefferson’s dictum in the Declaration of Independence; “that individuals have certain inalienable rights, among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” to the Constitution’s “life, liberty and property” represents a pragmatic understanding of the relationship between property and the actualization of the individual in society. In terms of community design, this means extensive public involvement and participation in not only the formulation of rules and regulations but of individual projects as well.
Since the 1960’s as planning and community design decision making has become increasingly contentious, the American legal system’s adversial approach to conflict resolution has become the dominant model for public decision making. The legal system’s adversial approach to adjudication is essentially a zero-sum game of winners and losers, and as most land-use lawyers will agree, is not a good model for the design of cities. While the adversial approach does not resolve disputes it rarely creates a positive and constructive consensus for change. Because physical planning and community design issues are not only value based, community design through consensus building has emerged as a new paradigm for physical planning and design.
The Environmental Simulation Center employs a broad range of complementary simulation and visualization techniques including 3-D vector based computer models, endoscopy, and verifiable digital photomontages to provide objective and verifiable information for projects and regulations under study.
In this context, a number of recent projects will be discussed which have explored the use of various simulation and visualization techniques in community design. Among them are projects involved with changes in the City’s Zoning Regulations, the community design of a major public open space in one of the region’s mid-size cities, and the design of a new village center for a suburban community, with the last project employing the Center’s userfriendly and interactive 3-D computer kit of parts. The kit - a kind of computer “pattern book” is comprised of site planning, urban and landscape design and architectural conventions - is part of the Center’s continuing effort to support a consensus based, rather than adversial based, public planning and design process.