Credit: UNSW Sydney

Credit: UNSW Sydney

UNSW Sydney launches City Analytics Lab and a Master program for city planning

UNSW Sydney recently launched a pioneering lab space and introduced a new postgraduate degree dedicated to improving collaboration in city planning and design. It has been established to support the envisioning of sustainable, productive, liveable and resilient cities and provides a unique opportunity to study the decision-making processes associated with city planning and design.

At the official launch of the City Analytics Lab, Minister for Infrastructure and Cities Mr Paul Fletcher said the lab responded to several trends affecting Australian cities related to population growth and the explosion of data available through everyday items such as smart phones, sensing devices and magnetic strips.  

“There is so much data. Turning the data into useful tools that can usefully assist decision-makers to make our cities better in the future - that is not an easy thing. And that is where (this lab) comes in,” Minister Fletcher said.

Housed within the Faculty of Built Environment at UNSW, the City Analytics Lab will help government and industry understand technologies and new approaches in the planning of more liveable, productive, sustainable and resilient cities.

The City Analytics Lab is a dedicated space designed to support collaborative city planning and user centred design. It supports both research in city analytics and teaching of the Master of City Analytics programme.

UNSW Vice-President of External Relations Ms Fiona Docherty said urban planners and city designers at federal and local levels around Australia could play a role in contributing to cutting-edge research in city planning.

“Their work and their decision making will be studied by the academic community of UNSW and will be adding to the global repository of knowledge around best practices and lessons learned by implementing policy into practice,” she said.

The Lab compromises a large decision support theatre, and three dedicated virtual reality (VR)/ augmented reality (AR) Reality rooms, along with a Tangible Table sandbox and observation rooms for undertaking experiments.

The interactive collaboration space with VR and AR technology gives users realistic and dynamic insights into the relationship between planning and factors such as transportation, education, health and justice.

Credit: UNSW Sydney

In addition to launching the lab, Professor Chris Pettit, UNSW Chair of Urban Sciences, introduced a new Master of City Analytics program to augment the capabilities of the lab for future city designers and urban planners. The program is the first of its kind in Australia.

“It’s all good to do this research and we can play with our technology and sandboxes here in the basement, but we actually need people to use these tools,” Professor Pettit said.

“The Master program will help our students understand what dashboards are, what are big data, what is open data and how do we actually use it in the real world,” he added.

The new lab aligns with Fletcher’s announcement of the second round of funding for the Government’s Smart Cities and Suburbs program. An additional A$22 million in grant funding will support projects that apply innovative technology-based solutions to urban challenges.

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