Paperback | $35.00 | 94 pages
ISBN: 978-1-55844-180-4
PDF | Free | Sample Chapter

Visioning and Visualization

People, Pixels, and Plans

Michael Kwartler and Gianni Longo

April 2008, English

Lincoln Institute of Land Policy

Two remarkable phenomena have affected the practice of planning over the past two decades: the rise of public involvement as an integral component of urban decision making, and the technological innovations that enable the visualization and simulation of physical reality. Together these phenomena anticipate the future, turning the planning process into a journey of discovery for professionals and laypeople alike.

Building on a series of workshops sponsored by the Lincoln Institute, authors Michael Kwartler and Gianni Longo present principles, techniques, and cases based on their professional experiences in developing sophisticated public involvement processes that are used to apply information technology to planning and design. They suggest ways that digital visualization tools can be integrated in a public process to present participants with clear choices and help them make informed planning decisions. Evidence from communities throughout the country shows that public involvement supported by visualization leads to better plans and more livable places and communities.

This book will assist urban professionals, public sector leaders, and the public in navigating the complex and evolving public planning process. Richly illustrated with more than 100 color figures, photographs, and computer simulations, the book presents an historic overview of the public involvement and digital visualization fields, outlines principles to guide the integration of public process and visualization tools in a democratic decision-making process, illustrates a range of public involvement techniques that invite the use of visualization tools, introduces specific tools and their uses in planning, and presents four case studies.

Visioning and Visualization is intended to be particularly helpful for those planning to initiate a public visioning process supported by visualization tools. Because the authors explain both the “why” of visioning along with the “how” of visualization, the reader is well-equipped to design the vision process and select appropriate tools and professional consultants to help carry it out. Visualization is seen in this work as a kind of analysis or inquiry—an activity that assists those engaged in the visioning process in exploring planning scenarios and design options under conditions of complexity and uncertainty.

About the Authors

Michael Kwartler, an architect, planner, urban designer, and educator, is the founding director of the Environmental Simulation Center (ESC) in New York City, a nonprofit research laboratory created to develop innovative applications of information technology for community planning, design, and decision making.

Gianni Longo is an architect and founding principal of ACP–Visioning & Planning in New York City. For the past two decades, he has pioneered the development of programs designed to involve citizens in the planning and decision-making process.


The authors focus on the use of visualization software packages in enhancing public participation in urban design and redesign—not just in “visioning,” but in actual planning, design, implementation, and subsequent fine-tuning…Especially for those not yet deeply involved with these technologies, this book will serve as a useful introduction.”

— Appeared in Planning

This book is aptly rife with large, color images that help convey the authors’ main idea: visuals are essential to planning with the community. When aided by the effective use of visualization tools, public participants are also more effectively responsive, simply because the information is straightforward and manipulatable. Visioning and Visualization is an excellent guide on how such potential can be attained through current technologies.”

— Planetizen Top 10 Books 2009

We have come a long way since ‘planning by crayon’ and ‘planning by edict.’ This book richly illustrates state-of-the-art planning tools for public involvement, visualization, and simulation that truly are best practices.”

— William L. Allen, III, Director of Strategic Conservation, The Conservation Fund

Finally, a coherent approach to community visioning that will serve as a valuable tool in building consensus across multiple stakeholders. This book will aid neighborhood leaders in demystifying the complex issues of urban planning and the built environment. It is a practical and adaptable set of methods to formulate and then visualize a set of strategies to inform equitable revitalization and redevelopment.” 

Miguel Garcia, Program Officer, Ford Foundation

Visioning and Visualization knits together several heretofore separately documented strands on the leading edge of today’s successful planning. Community-based participatory planning is presented as a core method, not just an add-on activity, as the “who” strand. Vision-driven strategic planning is the ‘what’ strand; and the new visualizing tools and technologies provide the ‘how’ strand. Underlying these is a whole-system, world view of the future in a values matrix, framing the ‘why’ strand of planning. The result is a thoughtful, creative, and hopeful vision for our democratic commons supported by an empowering, accessible new technology. In short, this clearly written beautifully produced book presents a whole tapestry of public planning the way it should be, can be, and sometimes actually is.”

Ron Thomas, AICP, Former Executive Director, Northeastern Illinois Planning Commission


Common Property, Community Development, Computerized, Environmental Planning, GIS, Growth Management, Infrastructure, Land Monitoring, Land Use, Land Use Planning, Planning, Scenario Planning, Urban, Urban Design, Urban Revitalization, Urban Sprawl, Urbanism, Zoning