Cognitive Urban Design Computing @ FCL

Cognitive Urban Design Computing @ FCL

This post documents our research in the Cognitive Design Computing (CoDeC) workstream of the Big Data Informed Urban Design and Governance project at the Future Cities Lab in Singapore with status July 2018. It is structured in our research on generation, analysis, and exploration methods. We demonstrate our methods in the context of the synergy project Waterfront Tanjong Pagar in Singapore. In this context we used partially inputs from other FCL research groups. The idea of Cognitive Urban Design Computing is to combine unique human design competences with computational methods for the generation, analysis, and exploration of urban designs. The loop of analysis and generation methods is the basis for automated spatial synthesis. Design space exploration methods are used for the presentation and selection of synthesized design variants.

Research Team: Katja Knecht, Yufan Miao, Kateryna Konieva, Pol Foreman, Reinhard Koenig (contact author), Gerhard Schmitt, in collaboration with Dietmar Leyk.


The image illustrates the framework for Cognitive Urban Design Computing.

Overview of the spatial synthesis process for Waterfront Tanjong Pagar

Generation and Analysis

Kateryna Konieva

We use the Waterfront Tanjong Pagar area for demonstrating the automated loop of generation and analysis of urban design variants. The video below shows the parametric design workflow with various analysis methods integrated in the spatial synthesis process. Currently we use network analysis, economic potentials, view analysis, as well as solar and shadow analysis.


Yufan Miao

For the automatization of the spatial synthesis process, we use evolutionary multi-criteria optimization algorithms. Therefore we needed to develop an appropriate data structure to represent spatial configurations (streets, parcels, and buildings), which allows the application of evolutionary operators (crossover, mutation, and adaption).

Design Space Exploration

Katja Knecht

The spatial synthesis process we presented allows to generate a large number of urban design variants. To present these variants in a meaningful way to urban planners or stakeholders, we explore the usage of design space exploration tools and new interface concepts. The aim is to provide a platform to discuss, compare and evaluate variants based on analysis results in order to allow stakeholders to take informed design decisions.

Comparison of design alternatives using the beta.speckle online interface.

The following video shows how design variants can be filtered according to specified design and performance characteristics in the Design Explorer application:


How design alternatives can be assessed and evaluated in the Speckle online viewer, e.g. by comparing analysis results such as shading and sunlight hours analysis, can be seen in the following clip:

Building Typologies

Pol Foreman

In collaboration with the FCL synergy project Waterfront Tanjong Pagar led by Dietmar Leyk, we developed a parametric urban masterplan, which allows the generation of adequately detailed urban block typologies and buildings.


Big Data Informed Urban Design and Governance

The Cognitive Design Computing (CoDeC) workstream is part of the Big Data Informed Urban Design and Governance project at the Future Cities Lab in Singapore. The video below gives an overview of all workstreams of the project and how they are related to each other.

Acknowledgement This research was conducted at the Future Cities Laboratory at the Singapore- ETH Centre, which was established cooperatively between ETH Zurich and Singapore’s National Research Foundation (FI 370074016) under its Campus for Research Excellence and Technological Enterprise programme (CREATE).

Related Publications

Sorry, but the selected Zotpress account can't be found.

Please enter a password to see the content.

Wrong password, please try again
Parametric assistance for complex urban planning processes

Parametric assistance for complex urban planning processes

In the following we present examples of new parametric urban design techniques that are applied for large-scale urban developments in order to achieve three goals: inclusiveness and transparency; automatization and speed; flexibility and adaptability.

The modular frameworks described below break down the linear sequence of the design process and give opportunities for changes at any stage during an urban planning process without affecting all the decisions made afterwards. Three presented case-studies are showing that parametric interventions can be made in several phases of the project development that include analysis, design generation and re-evaluation loops.

Research Team:   Kateryna Konieva, Iuliia Osintseva, Ondřej Veselý, Abdulmalik Abdulmawla, Katja Knecht, Dr. Reinhard Koenig, Dr. Sven Schneider

SynCity – Connect the Hubs

Burcu Cimenoglu, Christoph Hanisch, Kateryna Konieva

In response to increasing shortage of resources, infrastructure, housing and job offers in due to rapid urbanization overpopulated Ethiopian cities, there is a proposal to disseminate migrating population to large amount (up to 2000 of new developments) of the so-called “10K towns”.

Generative parametric methods were used optimize and repeat multiple actions that are following similar principles at any site. The tool was eventually applied in three topographically diverse locations in the Ethiopia to test its adaptibility. Creation of the new city “skeleton” would always consist of the street network, main facilities distribution, land use and density schemes, and housing typologies. In most cases these modules would be used in similar sequence and consider the same number of conditions for their design. General input data was defined during the phase of analysis: as locations given with a design brief had no built-up surroundings, only terrain geometry and existing main road were used.

SynCity 2020 – Habeshaville

Iuliia Osintseva, Ondrej Vesely, Mahmoud A’dam

The rapid developement of masterplans for hundreds to thousands of new Ethiopian towns in the short timeframe is beyond the capacities of traditional urban planning frameworks. This project is a result of continued collaboration between Bauhaus-Universität Weimar and EiABC, focused on developement of groundbreaking urban planning tools to help with this process.


In this aproach, an ideal site is chosen from the possible locations by applying various critiria, such as connection to the existing infrastructure or suitable terrain. After that an optimized street network is proposed, based on the terrain morphology to prevent water errosion and avoid steep streets. In towns that are proposed, four housing typologies are used, ranging from the most “urban” mixed use multistorey houses to simpler “farmer” housing with direct access to the agricultural land on the outskirts of the town. The public facitilites and other important buildings are distributed using a set of criteria and rules for their placement, based on our experience from previous field-trips and participative studies we lead in contemporary rural settlements all across Ethiopia.

Tanjong Pagar Waterfront

Kateryna Konieva, Iuliia Osintseva, Ondrej Vesely

Singapore’s Tanjong Pagar container port, an industrial zone of 400 ha, is planned to be relocated to other part of the island, releasing the land for new mixed-use development located in the wider city centre.

In cooperation with ETH Future Cities Lab, parametric generetive toolbox was developed, that could help designers and urban planners explore possible solutions.


 Similar aproach was chosen for the project: to start from the larger scale point of view – by digitally sketching street grids and land use plans and then move towards more detailed aspects such as road setbacks or building morphology. Different rules are set up to handle e.g. building height limits or street widths.

Compared to the projects for Ethiopian rural towns, the parametric methods were in this case used to genarate nd compare mutliple solutions for one very specific context, instead of adapting one solution to multiple locations. The goal was to create several scenarios based on different concepts for how to aproach the site and provide comparative measures on their performance.

Explore the project via our interactive map application.


The research background for Syncity design studio was part of the project Integrated Infrastructure (IN³). It is an interdisciplinary international research project at the Bauhaus-Universität Weimar (BUW) and the Ethiopia Institute for Architecture, Building Construction and City Development (EiABC).  We are also grateful to the Singapore-ETH Centre teams Multi-Scale Energy Systems for Low Carbon Cities, Engaging Mobility, and Big Data-Informed Urban Design and Governance for contributing their knowledge, experience and time to our design studio.

Related Publications

Sorry, but the selected Zotpress account can't be found.

Computational Urban Design Prototyping

Computational Urban Design Prototyping

The presented study is made for Cape Town city in South Africa, in which approximately 7.5 million people living in informal settlements and about 2.5 million housing units are needed. This motivates us to develop upgrading strategies for informal settlements. For this purpose, we developed an adaptive and interactive tool for rapid computational urban design prototyping. The tool can be used to generate urban layouts including street networks, blocks, parcels and buildings based on requirements specified by an urban designer. For implementing  the layout generation process, we developed an underlying tree data structure to represent street networks and parcellings. Moreover, network analysis methods were applied for controlling the distribution of buildings in the communities so that preferred neighborhood relationships are considered. Finally we demonstrated how to compare designs based on spatial analysis.

Research Team: Reinhard Koenig (contact author), Peter Bus, Yufan Miao, Chang-Mei Chih, Artem Chirkin.
The presented research evolves within the context of a collaboration with Scott Lloyd from the Urban Think Tank (U-TT) at ETH Zurich.


This page contains accompanying material for the paper Computational Urban Design Prototyping: Interactive Planning Synthesis Methods Demonstrated by a Case Study in Cape Town, published in the International Journal of Architectural Computing (IJAC), [it’s currently under review].

The Computational Urban Design Process

We implemented a new data structure for a slicing tree. The slicing (A) starts from one edge (1). After that, it slices the edge (2) on the left side of the slicing line (B) and next the one on the right (C, 4). A slicing line is stored in the slicing tree by assigning it to the edge it crosses. At the same time, the slicing lines are ranked based on their levels in the tree structure.

The case study area is Enkanini in Cape Town City, South Africa, for which we generate urban planning variants in a fast and interactive way.

Example of two urban layouts for the sliced parcels, generated freely (left) and using initial street segments to guide street network generation (right).

To increase the precision for generating parcels with a defined width, we nested the block and parcel generation.

Using the Speckle plug-in for Grasshopper the generated urban layouts can be made accessible online to share and communicate the design as well as to allow stakeholders to explore design alternatives. In accordance with the initial specifications, the interface allows to change the dimensions of the parcels within a defined parameter range using sliders to adjust the parcels width and depth.

The generated urban layouts can be analysed with various methods. In this example we assessed pedestrian accessibility of the educational and commercial facilities by using a gravity-based method.

Video of the Computational Urban Design Process

Related Publications

Sorry, but the selected Zotpress account can't be found.

Download Grasshopper Definitions


The Grasshopper files are created for Grasshopper (build 0.9.0076) with Rhino3D v.5. To open and run the models you need to install the DeCodingSpaces-Toolbox (we used version 2018.01) – food4rhino is not always working.

Download Adaptive EmpowerShack Grasshopper Definition

Adaptive Urban Masterplan 05/18

Adaptive Urban Masterplan 05/18

This page shows a technical demonstration of an adaptive urban masterplan developed in the Smart Spatial Planning Systems group at the Austrian Institute of Technology (AIT) in May 2018. The concept results from a long-term collaboration beween Bauhaus-University Weimar, ETH Zurich, FCL Singapore, and AIT. The masterplan is implemented as Grasshopper definition and can be controlled with a simplified user interface in Rhino3D. There is a protected download of the Grasshopper definition at the end of this page.
We offer to create an adaptive urban masterplan for your individual projects. For more information, please contact Dr. Koenig.

Research Team: Ondřej Veselý and Reinhard Koenig (contact author),

View the generated model in Mapbox

The parametric masterplan definition allows creating first a custom street network. Afterwards you can define land use areas for parks, residential, office, and hospitality. Based on the land use definition, the building volumes are generated. You can adjust individual building rules like the height setbacks or distance spaces. The final urban 3D model may be analyzed concerning various aspects – e.g. by the DeCodingSpaces network analysis.

Please enter a password to access the download.

Wrong password, please try again

Pin It on Pinterest