Open Access Te Herenga Waka-Victoria University of Wellington
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AR/Urban: Exploring Augmented Reality for Participatory Urban Design

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posted on 2021-08-01, 23:35 authored by Silcock, David

CAAD research has frequently investigated the realm of public participation in large scale urban design re-development. Cultural shifts have created a need to involve the end-users in these activities. CAAD has been quick and plentiful to offer solutions, yet, the recurring problem lies with the lay-person not being able to interpret information effectively and be able to take part in the process of design proactively. To date, much-existing research predominantly focuses on the development of designs in urban settings using high tech devices that fundamentally require a high level of expertise, or an experienced 'guide', to help navigate or create within these environments.

This thesis presents a novel application based on real-time-virtual-engines and XR. The research discusses the role that tangible user interfaces (TUI) can play in the engagement of the lay-person in the design process. In this project, we describe how the integration of interaction design (IxD) and augmented reality (AR) offer new opportunities due to the extending web of availability of barrier-free technologies to better include lay-persons as active participants in the design process.

The AR-markers developed within this project provide an intuitive method of addressing specific issues relating to the engagement of lay-people in the process of urban design. E.g. the appropriate positioning of a house on a section of land and the understanding of translation from 2D to 3D representation. These obstacles are managed through interaction and manipulation of image-based targets encoded with ‘Vuforia’s’ ‘virtual buttons’ functionality. This method gives the lay-person the ability to cycle through different parametric design options with a degree of computational fluency not typical of the lay-person. A first-person viewer is encouraged in unison with this interaction, providing a means to shift from organising space in a ‘bird-eye’ view to experiencing it from a more familiar street-view perspective.

In the early phases of this project, the focus was placed on establishing tools for layperson engagement in the process of urban design. The first iteration of the tool focused on a broadly scoped parametric augmented reality workflow, where the focus is placed on the transfer of information from an interactive parametric program to an AR environment. The second iteration saw this workflow simplified, utilising a smartphone application that allowed the easy transfer of data between these two platforms. A refinement of scope then occurred, followed by the final version of the tool which focussed purely on the development of an AR environment that allowed for accessible and proactive layperson participation. The later stages of this project involved more in-depth exploration of the capabilities of the tool, the testing of it in a more refined context, and critical reflection on the effectiveness of each passing phase. The project concludes with an overall critique and evaluation of the developed method based on criteria outlined in similar research projects, and a framework for future research to aid in the engagement of lay-people in urban design through participatory AR.


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Date of Award



Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

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Author Retains Copyright

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Degree Grantor

Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

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Degree Name

Master of Architecture (Professional)

Victoria University of Wellington Unit

University Library

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Victoria University of Wellington Item Type

Awarded Research Masters Thesis



Victoria University of Wellington School

Wellington School of Architecture


Schnabel, Marc Aurel; Moleta, Tane