Urban planning software developed by UC Berkeley startup released by Autodesk
29 April 2015
Photo Caption: Analyze proposal as you design
Urban Canvas, a powerful software-based simulator for planning and analyzing urban development created by Berkeley-based software company Synthicity, founded and led by Paul Waddell, Professor and Chair of City and Regional Planning at Berkeley, goes into wide release after being acquired by 3D software giant Autodesk.
Autodesk Urban Canvas is an integrated desktop software and cloud-based data resources solution that uses a “SimCity”-style 3D digital model as an interactive backdrop to help city planners collaboratively edit and share urban data about complex city phenomena, including tracking buildings from plan to construction. Autodesk previewed Urban Canvas on April 18th at the 2015 American Planning Association Conference in Seattle. The launch of Autodesk Urban Canvas follows the recent acquisition of technology and expertise from Synthicity.
Waddell began Synthicity in late 2012 with a team that included Fletcher Foti, then a Berkeley PhD student, and Eddie Janowicz and Conor Henley, alumni of Berkeley’s Masters in City Planning program, among others, to bring research in urban planning, analysis, and visualization to commercial scale. In April 2014, Synthicity was selected from a field of nearly 200 applicants as one of six startup companies to participate in San Francisco’s inaugural Entrepreneurs in Residence Program. The program brings together the private sector technology startups and city departments to explore innovative solutions to civic challenges.
Synthicity grew out of Waddell’s development of UrbanSim in the mid-1990’s — a software-based simulation system for supporting planning and analysis of urban development, now widely used by metropolitan planning organizations and other local and regional agencies around the world. Autodesk Urban Canvas complements the analytical capability of UrbanSim by providing a highly visual and intuitive platform for users to combine design and analysis in a fluid 3D environment.
Using desktop software and cloud-based data resources, Autodesk Urban Canvas enables planning professionals to collaboratively edit and share urban data, develop and evaluate alternative scenarios and phasing, and rapidly generate 3D building models for proposed projects in context and for entire metropolitan regions. A key element in making the system fast and easy to use is the incorporation of procedural modeling of buildings, which enables users to create typologies of buildings that can be rapidly applied to parcels, considering their zoning restrictions and different architectural styles. These models also contain data attributes that enable them to be analyzed, whether for assessing the mix of building uses, or the financial feasibility of alternative developments.
“We’re very excited to be a part of Autodesk and to be releasing Urban Canvas as an Autodesk product,” Waddell said. “This kind of rapid prototyping solution that integrates design, analysis and visualization in one application empowers planners to design and evaluate many more alternative proposals and plans rapidly, allowing them to engage stakeholders in a more meaningful way, earlier in the planning process when their input can still substantively shape the development of the plans. We can start to engage communities more directly in evaluating the outcomes that matter to them.”
Following the Autodesk acquisition of Synthicity technology and the release of Autodesk Urban Canvas, Waddell will continue working with Autodesk to lead the development of urban planning technology.
“The release of Urban Canvas demonstrates Autodesk’s continuing commitment to support urban planning professionals and enable sustainability through design,” said Scott Noble, Industry Strategy Manager, Land Development & Urban Planning, Autodesk.