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Lou Huang on How Technology Can Improve Urban Design Engagement

June 12, 2019

Civic engagement for urban design projects is often difficult to do well. Not everyone can attend a public meeting, and not everyone feels comfortable speaking up at one.

Lou Huang, creator of Streetmix, lead our webinar on June 12, 2019 to discuss how technology can break down these barriers to participation and make engagement a more collaborative and cooperative process. Join Huang and Next City to learn how cities can make the most of tools like Streetmix and the role of technology in cities.

Streetmix allows users to create a hypothetical street, with options for driving lanes, bus lanes, bike lanes, scooter lanes, streetcars, sidewalks, parking, trees, parklets and benches, wayfinding signs and much more. What’s more, they can do it without any technical knowledge and from the comfort of home, which means that residents can make their voices heard from anywhere.

“Streetmix was a prototype created to test our theory of online civic engagement, but it’s now become an important part of an urban planner or community organizer’s toolkit for communication and ideation around street planning. It’s used by thousands of city planners, engineers, students, activists and hobbyists, has been translated into over ten languages, and have become instrumental in upgrading hundreds of miles of streets around the world,” says Huang.

Mexico City used Streetmix to experiment with participatory street design. As did Reno, Nevada. “Streetmix images were key in helping stakeholders instantly understand our proposal. It made it easy to see what the trade offs were and producing the images was super easy,” Andrew Samuelsen, a Reno resident working to improve the city’s bike infrastructure network, tells Streetmix. “[We] got the project [to improve Center Street] moved from our Metropolitan Planning Organization’s five-year plan to next year’s program of projects.”

Lou Huang is an urban designer and a recovering architect, building open source tools for the civic tech movement. He is the founder and CEO of Streetmix, a collaborative platform where urban planners and community members design streets and public space together, and a founding member of Bad Idea Factory, a collective of technologists, journalists, and civic thinkers working in media innovation.

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