Gothenburg, Sweden: Public at the forefront

Gothenburg, Sweden: Public at the forefront

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Sweden’s second largest city is encouraging public participation in urban planning with Web-based 3D service

Many urban planners globally are struggling with the question of how to communicate city development plans efficiently to citizens and how to involve citizens in the planning to support a democratic process. Their concerns include: how to reach out with the information to relevant stakeholders and citizens, other than those few citizens normally attending formal consultation meetings; how to receive feedback and external suggestions early in the planning process and thereby save costs; how to communicate clearly to avoid misunderstandings.

These questions were raised by the City of Gothenburg, the second largest city in Sweden with over 500, 000 citizens. In a planning horizon of 10-20 years, the large expected growth of citizens and several extensive infrastructure projects call for the new city balancing social, economic and ecological considerations. These aims have also been embraced by an overall political goal to improve public dialogue.

The city planning department of Gothenburg initiated a project with the goal to use international best practices and decided to use interactive 3D on the Web as the vehicle to go with. The City has developed a new arena for the citizens to meet and debate city development on equal terms, called “MinStad” (MyCity in English). The arena is a Web portal based on a photo-realistic 3D city model where users can, interactively, explore the city and post comments and even publish 3D building models. Facebook accounts are used for user authentication before posting comments. Integration of social media also enhances spreading of the contributions throughout the community. Based on different categories, such as living, work, sport and more, users can give their suggestions, dismantle buildings, change the terrain, create volumes for new buildings and even upload Sketch-up 3D models. Suggestions are published on the MinStad portal and via Facebook.

MinStad can also be used as an internal tool where urban planners, architects, traffic planners, environmental investigators, etc. can simulate and communicate various alternatives in the city planning process.

Gothenburg City”s “MinStad” is based on CityPlanner, a Web service developed by Swedish software company Agency9. CityPlanner is a global cloud service to visualise construction and infrastructure projects on the Web for efficient communication and collaboration within project teams and to publish projects to the public. The service was launched in June this year.

“With this Web service we aim to increase the dialogue with our citizens to have the right priorities for building a sustainable city and to improve the public support for our projects. Also, we wish to engage children and teenagers who will be the actual residents of the city that we are shaping in the 10 to 20 year time frame,” says Eric Jeansson, GIS manager at the City Planning office in Gothenburg.