Meet the GeoDesigner: GIS and Data-Enriched Design

…in Architect magazine…

“Earlier this year, nearly 200 people—planners, engineers, developers (of both software and real estate), architects, and academics—gathered in Redlands, Calif., at the corporate headquarters of ESRI. Founded as the Environmental Systems Research Institute in 1969 by Jack Dangermond, the company is the market leader in GIS (geographic information system) technologies; its ArcGIS is the most widely used software of its kind, with versions that can be used online and on mobile phones. ESRI was hosting the first-ever GeoDesign Summit: three days of sessions and workshops geared to map out the future impact of GIS on design.

“Loosely defined as the integration of geographic analysis and tools into the design process, the term “geodesign,” while not proprietarily linked to ESRI, is viewed as part of the company’s lexicon by the geospatial community, broadly composed of urban planners, cartographers, geographers and other social scientists, and emergency response and military analysts, among others. Geodesign, as Dangermond sees it, is shorthand for the complex interrelationship of spatial data and architecture. It is the interface between land use, census blocks, traffic patterns, air quality tables, and any other data set, on the one hand, and the process of building—site planning, conceptual design, programming, and construction drawings—on the other.

“Dangermond, who has a master’s degree in landscape architecture from Harvard’s Graduate School of Design, is as much resident philosopher as company president, and he draws his ideas about GIS and design from landscape architect Ian McHarg’s 1969 book Design With Nature. McHarg’s book spelled out the connections between environmental impact, social factors, and appropriate development. Holistic planning may seem commonsensical now, but at the time, it was part of a growing backlash against Modernism’s sweeping gestures. The GeoDesign Summit expressly set out to explore technological advances, but its goals were no less lofty than to save the Earth.”