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Visualizing Community Form
New digital tools help communities shape their own futures.
By James L. Sipes, ASLA

Image Courtesy CommunityViz

The dilemma for landscape architects is that community-planning issues are becoming more complex than ever before, yet citizens and decision makers want to have more of a voice in how their community grows and develops. Traditional planning and design techniques are inadequate for addressing these changes and wind up being more reactive than proactive.

Most geographic information systems (GIS) and cad programs are good with facts about the land, but they don’t address community values. Historically, decision-support and visualization tools that include values have been beyond the reach of average GIS users, but that has changed in recent years with the advent of programs such as ESRI’s ArcView 3D Analyst and Spatial Analyst, and now with CommunityViz. All three are tools that support landscape scale as well as site scale and enable many more participants than normal in the planning process.

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