Research from CyI’s Virtual Environments Lab Selected Among the Best International Practices of Public Space Co-Creation

Research on the use of interactive spatial data visualization for stakeholder engagement in public space co-creation and co-management of historic sites that also formed the main enquiry which led to the creation of the DARIAH Working Group UDigiSH, developed by CyI’s Virtual Environments Lab and led by Assist. Professor G. Artopoulos, was selected as one of the two best projects in the Open Call of Public Play Space Initiatives. The State of the Art Catalogue collects and analyses 30 best-practice case studies, offering an international panorama of the emerging methodologies and strategies for the public space co-design through digital technologies. The best practices featured in the Catalogue were first selected from the results of an International Open Call launched in December 2019, and later evaluated for the announcement of the two winning methodologies.

This research proposes a methodology for the cross-disciplinary study and analysis of complex urban realities, such as historic Mediterranean cities, with the use of advanced digital tools for the creation and development of real-time virtual environments for research and collaboration that capture data of users’ behaviour in space. The objective of this research is a digital platform, which through immersion, urban data modeling and interactive visualisation enables the evaluation of alternative planning scenarios and design interventions in the context of the management plan of open public spaces that used to be popular within the urban fabric of European cities, but are now forgotten or in limbo due to political, economic, or social pressures. The Virtual Environments Lab’s research on the reintegration of the archaeological site of the Pafos Gate, located in the moat of the medieval walls of Nicosia, in the network of public spaces of the contemporary city, was developed in the context of the COST Action TU1306, with the support of the Department of Antiquities, Nicosia Municipality, and in collaboration with NCSA at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. The methods and tools that the UDigiSH WG is currently developing build on the solid foundation of this methodology.

Public Play Space (PPS) is a project co-funded by the Creative Europe programme of the European Union whose main goal is to foster the co-production of inclusive, cohesive and sustainable public space. The project aims to establish a transdisciplinary platform to explore how play and gamification tools in combination with advanced digital technologies can be used to foster the process of public space co-design and place-making, enhancing the understanding of the relationship between the space and its users.

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New UDigiSH tool is published to support innovative participatory practices for urban transitions

UDigiSH Working Group operates within the cross-disciplinary area as defined by the nature of the pressing challenges that our historic cities are facing (e.g., climate, gentrification, decay, migration, etc.). The objective of this study is to better understand how built heritage contributes to the development of resilient cities, focusing on new ways to transform neglected urban spaces and neighbourhoods in second- and third-tier European historic cities in the Mediterranean territory. Our Working Group is pleased to announce that the group of Mobility at DeustoTech has kindly offered in kind contribution to DARIAH by means of several person months’ technical support to the WGs activities regarding the use of ICT and data-driven tools for community building around contemporary challenges of urban heritage and historic sites. Leveraging on the results of prior collaboration of WG members, applying good practices for sustainable futures, as discussed in Urban Living Labs by the community of JPI Urban Europe, and drawing on knowledge produced in the context of H2020 COST Action CyberParks, the team at DeustoTech developed a dedicated software tool for the needs of the WG. The mobile app, provisionally published under the name DARIAH app, is a digital research tool designed for community building through participatory design and co-creation methodologies which will allow the WG to work with local groups, and to study, discuss and analyse sites of interest in any city, that can be enacted today in many variable contexts with the help of smartphones. DARIAH app consists of an application (designed for Android) capable of collecting a variety of audio-visual, geolocative and textual materials. It functions as a unique support for innovative participatory practices for urban transitions, and enables individuals to:

  • create ‘proposals’ related to places of interest;
  • group in ‘projects’ relevant information about the transformation, preservation or renovation of a building, urban site, etc.;
  • create, automatically generate and upload linked data (and metadata) about the topic of interest, including textual sources, photographs, videos, 360 panoramas, 3D models; as well as,
  • tag digital assets with commentary, vote and exchange opinions and ideas about topics of interest.

In parallel, the UDigiSH Working Group in collaboration with the Advanced Visualisation Laboratory, at NCSA, University of Illinois at Urbana- Champaign, with the support of Professor D. Cox, and Colter Wehmeier, Kajetan Haas and AJ Christensen, is developing experimental tools, scripts and workflows for the visualisation of 3D spatialised urban datasets in Augmented Reality, to be accessible through mobile devices. This collaboration was pursued in the context of the research activity of RIVEEL3D. These integrated data interaction and visualisation workflows have great potential in archaeological and cultural heritage applications for the stakeholder engagement in the management of heritage sites, as well as the immersion of the public in the history of cultural places and landscapes, for educational purposes. Provisionally published under the name WIKAR app is a mobile app for the visualisation, geolocation of and interaction with 3D models of objects (e.g., a monument, a building, a square, urban furniture) that are manually modelled or photogrammetrically documented, through Augmented Reality (AR). Currently it functions as a complementary AR enabled tool to the DARIAH app that allows its users to visualise 3D digital assets linked to a topic of interest in the real world, facilitating interpretation of information and staging dialogue between the many stakeholders of urban spaces and the city administration. The overarching objective of this effort is to develop and propose an inclusive and open data-driven participatory methodology for the sustainable management, reactivation and reintegration of historic sites and open air spaces of our cities into the contemporary lives of their inhabitants.

Using the Wikar DARIAH app in Palermo, Sicily, to virtually position the 3D model of an important local art object (‘Acqua Passata’, part of the EU project ‘Snapshots from the Borders’) at the industrial heritage site of Fabrica Ducrot (1890- 1968), by means of Augmented Reality.