An ever-growing percentage of the world population lives in cities and this brings with it great challenges. As cities are forecast to continue to grow, the planning of the urban densification of the future is a key issue. This is also true for Switzerland, where the question of how much density is too much is a topic of general interest. Urban environments that strike a balance between accommodating a large number of people whilst retaining a pleasant atmosphere are those that are most likely to succeed. The project investigates this property of urban environments by examining how individuals perceive urban density. The aim of the project is to define a novel index of perceived urban density that can be used by different stakeholders in the planning disciplines.
Urban density has long been a key issue in the planning disciplines, and it has been the focus of individual research projects at ETH Zürich. However, whilst it is customary for architects and planners to consider urban density, there is often no consideration of how individuals might perceive such density. For example, in the planning disciplines, it is standard practice to calculate FAR (floor area ratio). However, the way in which the FAR ratio is perceived will vary from space to space. Whilst the FAR ratio is a useful index for how a project will fit with the existing surrounding urban density, it does not quantify how people might perceive such density. This is an underdeveloped aspect of research on urban density. Understanding how urban density is perceived is a critical aspect for designing the cities of the future. The proposed “Perceived Urban Density” index aims to be used in the optimization of existing planning models.
This interdisciplinary project is led by Beatrix Emo at the Chair of Cognitive Science. It is funded by the ETH Career Seed Grant.