WE_GENERATE (beta) Chinatown, Manhattan

WE_GENERATE (beta)  Chinatown, Manhattan
GOLES, CAAAV, TUFF-LES and Manhattan CB 3
Meta Brunzema, Radhi Majmudar, Nikhil Sanghvi, Aishwariya Devi Sivakumar, Neha Hegde, Maria Ugarte
Services & Activities
Featured, Urban Planning, Workshops, Sustainable Design, Urban Design, Civic Tech
Two Bridges, Chinatown, Manhattan
Community Partners
Good Old Lower East Side, Inc. (w/ TUFF-LES)
Technical Partners
Wallacei, Inc. & Felipe Oeyen
New York Health Foundation

WE_GENERATE (beta) is an interactive, participatory digital tool for communities and professionals that democratizes neighborhood planning by empowering citizens to visualize and shape urban building and renovation projects, analyze multiple trade-offs, and make persuasive data-backed choices that further public health, resilience, preservation, and urban justice.

Special LES and Chinatown Waterfront District

After completing The Plan for Chinatown and Surrounding Areas, a comprehensive plan for Chinatown in 2014, CCCE was asked to develop a Special District zoning framework for the Two Bridges LSRD waterfront area (CWG plan/Subdistrict D). The Special Lower East Side and Chinatown Waterfront District includes height limits, 60% open space to building ratios, and a goal of 50% affordable housing. The Special District was designed to preserve affordability on the waterfront and Chinatown as a whole.

WE_GENERATE (beta) was used to visualize what affordable housing could look like under the new Special District regulations, and to prove that high-quality buildings could be achieved within a height limit of 350 feet.

Together with members of GOLES and the tenant association TUFF-LES, CCCE created conceptual affordable housing options with amenities and retail for three large sites of Two Bridges LSRD sites 4, 5, and 6A. CCCE worked with nonprofit partner GOLES (Good Old Lower East Side, Inc.), as well as members of the tenant association TUFF-LES to develop the housing options.

Community Participation

Since communities know what is best for them, meaningful participation in planning, urban design, and large building projects is essential to further equitable, healthy, and sustainable development. Yet, all too often these impactful planning, design, and real-estate development decisions are not easy to make.

The complexity, fragmentation, and expense of the land-use planning, design, and real-estate process often stand in the way of meaningful community engagement and grassroots decision-making. Only very few development options end up being explored and evaluated; which means that some of the most beneficial solutions remain unknown.

The Collective developed WE_GENERATE (beta), a digital data-driven design, visualization, and optimization tool to meaningfully engage citizens in complex urban development projects – and to increase the solutions that they can choose from. This powerful multi-objective optimization software tool can be used in community planning workshops or focus groups to discuss building massing, unit types, size or cost, and to visualize and evaluate project trade-offs.

New Digital Tool for Communities

WE_GENERATE (beta) is a suite of digital data and visualization software programs that can simulate, visualize and optimize architectural, urban design, and planning projects. To set up the program, a 3-dimensional model of the site and project constraints (height limits, zoning/code regulations, etc.) needs to be created, together with a set of community “fitness” objectives that serve to evaluate and optimize the potential solutions.

Unlike many 3D programs, WE_GENERATE (beta) can generate thousands of conceptual design solutions. Using multi-objective optimization algorithms, the software selects the best design solutions based on client, community, or stakeholder objectives. Each of the optimized solutions is backed by data;  i.e. construction cost, the number of apartments, impact on shadows or views, etc.



Complexity and Trade-Offs

The WE_GENERATE (beta) digital tool is especially effective for decision-making in situations where trade-offs are necessary. For example, a housing project may have a dual goal of maximizing affordable units AND maximizing open spaces. Using its multi-objective optimization algorithms, the tool will generate and visualize the best trade-offs.

WE_GENERATE can be used in community meetings using a large digital screen, digital tablets, or phones and can even be used online.  The participatory interface makes it easy for groups of people to make data-backed choices, and visualize different architectural, urban design or planning options.

WE_GENERATE (beta) can also be used on non-spatial planning projects….for example, selecting the location of facilities based on a range of objectives – cost, distance, equity, etc.

Workflow Diagram

The Collective worked with GOLES, and members of the tenant association TUFF_LES to test and improve the WE_GENERATE (beta) software, workflow, and interface – in order to increase meaningful community participation in the Two Bridges LSRD planning project.

The Workflow diagram shows a community-led iterative process for generating design or planning solutions that can be used on a variety of complex projects.