PhD project: Using 3D geovisualisations for urban design: The case of informal settlement upgrading in South Africa

We are starting a new thread in our blog! We will be featuring interesting scientific work done by our members or in our extended community once in a while. We begin by a recently completed PhD thesis, by our working group secretary Dr. Victoria Rautenbach. Victoria (relatively recently, and very successfully) completed her PhD at the University of Pretoria, South Africa. In this post, we provide a summary of Victoria’s PhD project, and link to some of the related publications for those who wish to dig deeper.

ps. On a side note, here’s a lovely moment of cultural fusion in Victoria’s graduation ceremony:


Using 3D geovisualisations for urban design: The case of informal settlement upgrading in South Africa

Informal settlements are a common occurrence in South African due to housing backlogs and shortage of housing subsidies, and are often located on disputed land. To improve in-situ circumstances of these communities, informal settlement upgrades and urban design is required. Spatial data and maps are essential throughout the entire upgrading and urban design process in order to understand the current environment, plan new developments and communicate planned developments. All stakeholders need to understand maps to ensure active participation in the urban design process. Many researchers proclaimed that because 3D visualisations resemble the real environment more than traditional maps, and are more intuitive, therefore 3D geovisualisations are easier to interpret. The question arises whether 3D geovisualisations can support and even benefit the urban design process, in the context of this thesis, specifically for upgrading of South African informal settlements.

To investigate the use of 3D geovisualisation, the following topics needs to be investigated: modelling processes (manual and procedural); visual design (visual characteristics, visual complexity and visual variables); and cognition related to spatial tasks on 3D geovisualisations and comparable alternatives (i.e. topographic maps, aerial photographs, 2D maps) when performing basic map reading tasks. They found that procedural modelling was found to be a feasible alternative to time-consuming manual modelling and has the capabilities to produce high-quality models. The results of four user studies and expert interviews contributed to understanding the impact of various levels of complexity in 3D city models and map literacy of future geoinformatics and planning professionals when using aerial photographs, 2D maps and 3D models. The research results could assist planners in designing suitable 3D models for use throughout the entire urban design process.

Relevant publications to this project:

Rautenbach, V., Coetzee, S. & Çöltekin, A. (2017) Development and evaluation of a specialized task taxonomy for spatial planning – A map literacy experiment with topographic maps. ISPRS Journal of Photogrammetry and Remote Sensing, In press. DOI: 10.1016/j.isprsjprs.2016.06.013.

Rautenbach, V., Coetzee, S. & Çöltekin, A. (2016) Investigating the use of 3D geovisualisations for urban design in informal settlement upgrading in South Africa. The International Archives of the Photogrammetry, Remote Sensing and Spatial Information Sciences (ISPRS Archives), Volume XLI-B2, 2016 XXIII ISPRS Congress, 12–19 July 2016, Prague, Czech Republic.

Rautenbach, V., Bevis, Y., Coetzee, S. & Combrinck, C. (2015) Evaluating procedural modelling for 3D models of informal settlements in urban design activities. South African Journal of Science, 111(11/12), DOI: 10.17159/sajs.2015/20150100.

Rautenbach, V., Coetzee, S. Schiewe, J. & Çöltekin, A. (2015) An Assessment of Visual Variables for the Cartographic Design of 3D Informal Settlement Models. 27th International Cartographic Conference. 23–28 August 2015, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

Rautenbach, V., Çöltekin, A. & Coetzee, S (2015) Exploring the Impact of Visual Complexity Levels in 3D City Models on the Accuracy of Individuals’ Orientation and Cognitive Maps, ISPRS Annals of the Photogrammetry, Remote Sensing and Spatial Information Sciences, Volume II-3/W5, 2015 ISPRS Geospatial Week 2015, 28 Sep–03 Oct 2015, La Grande Motte, France

Rautenbach, V., Coetzee, S. & Çöltekin, A. (2014) Towards evaluating the map literacy of planners in 2D maps and 3D models in South Africa. AfricaGEO 2014 Conference Proceedings. 1–3 July 2014, Cape Town, South Africa.

The thesis itself is here.

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