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SynCity Ethiopia

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Rapid prototyping of new Ethiopian cities




Ethiopia’s unanticipated levels of urbanisation call for new, qualitative urban planning solutions. The project objective was to develop a source code that  takes all dimensions of planning new cities into consideration — from functional distribution to traffic organisation. The developed model has been used with great success in the planning of three new towns in Ethiopia.


Project description

Rapid population growth and rural-urban migration are putting enormous pressure on urban planners in developing countries, with new neighbourhoods and even entire cities having to be built in a minimum of time. These new developments must not only meet the basic need of “putting a roof over one’s head”, but must also be able to ensure secure and sustainable livelihoods for all residents. It is especially important for architects and urban designers to pay careful attention to the spatial morphology of streets, places, and buildings, as these features persist over long periods of time and greatly influence the behaviour patterns of urban users.

The SynCity project was concerned with planning methods for the design of urban spatial structures, and the project developed a computational design strategy that adapts to changing environmental parameters and integrates the perspectives of urban users. A master plan was thus created from a set of rules derived from the lives and interactions of urban residents, rather than being determined from abstract geometrical concepts. These sets of rules are generated from models that combine visibility and walkability analyses.


Main conclusions

  • A method for the semi-automatic generation of “new city” layouts.
  • A system for assisting developing countries that are experiencing rapidly rising levels of urbanisation.
  • An integrative digital master plan that links to various simulations of environmental aspects (e.g. water flow) and human behaviour (e.g. pedestrian movement).
  • The used and developed tools are part of a collection of components for Grasshopper/Rhino3D.