tHE paLIMPSEST

Featured on WIRED UKCreative Applications Networkdesignboom.

Presented at Art and the Future City Symposium in Brussels, Belgium.

Read in-depth research supporting this project here.

The Palimpsest utilizes emerging digital technologies in virtual reality (VR) and 3D scanning to improve community engagement and participatory design in urban development projects. The Palimpsest allows communities to digitally archive neighborhoods, homes, and urban spaces that are important to them and that may be impacted by development projects. It also provides a platform for all stakeholders involved in urban development to collaborate by sharing stories, opinions, and proposals. In order to make our project accessible, The Palimpsest deliberately uses low-cost and soon-to-be widely available technologies, such as Google’s Project Tango (a new 3D scanner that will be available in smartphones from this September) and Google Cardboard (a cardboard headset that enables smartphones to display VR content).

The tools we have created can be used to facilitate collaborative community engagement in a wide range of contexts, from emergency housing, to community improvement, to infrastructure projects. Our project provides an example of how designers, governments, and corporations involved in public projects can apply new technologies to create meaningful community engagement opportunities.

Our project uses High Speed Rail 2 (HS2), a new rail line that will traverse the UK, as a case study. The community engagement practices of HS2 Ltd are steeped in controversy, and people living along the line are concerned that they will lose their homes and their communities The Palimpsest is our response. It provides a canvas where past, present, and future urban conditions can exist simultaneously so they can be discussed and debated in context.