Geodesign for the Sustainable Tourism Development of Oristano, Sardinia, Italy


I attended a one-day Geodesign workshop in Florence, Italy on January 30th, 2020, as part of my Postdoctoral training on Geodesign methods, tools and implementations. The workshop was run by Prof. Dr. Michele Campagna from the University of Cagliari, Sardinia, Italy. This was part of the 7th Winter School in Research Methodology for Social Sciences, organized by the Department of Architecture, University of Florence Twenty participants, mainly PhD students, joined the Geodesign workshop conducted by Prof. Campagna and remotely by Hrishi Ballal from Dublin. The case study was the Sustainable Tourism Development of Oristano, Sardinia, Italy. You can check it out the presentation yma

After a general introduction to the geodesign approach, and the presentation of the case study we started working with the web-based Geodesign Hub collaborative planning support system The Geodesign Hub digital tool is web-based application where the participants bring their ideas,collaborate and negotiate designs to address urban planning challenges. It supports a rapid creation of conceptual designs to address large and complex geodesign problems, and to foster collaboration among different stakeholders, especially during the early stages of design. It easily incorporates existing and diverse data, and it enables participants to collaborate in person and/or online  in real time. Geodesign Hub was created by Hrishikesh Ballal at the Centre for Advanced Spatial Analysis at University College London, and it implements the Carl Steinitz’ framework for geodesign. Basically, it integrates diverse design disciplines, such as planning, landscape architecture, geography and engineering. It is the digitization of landscape planning and design, that combines geographic sciences, local knowledge, and information technologies

A geodesign project is divided in three phases: 1) pre workshop; 2) the workshop; and 3) post workshop. The first phase, the assessment, is based on the first step of Steinitz’ framework – representation models, process models and evaluation models. The second phase, the intervention, is based on the second and final step of Steinitz’ framework – change models, impact models and decision models. This is the phase in which the Geodesign workshop takes place. The third phase’s aim is to produce a report of the process. The first and third phases are developed by the researcher. The second phase is a workshop facilitated by the researcher, in which the group of participants are local social actors. If it’s not possible to gather the local stakeholders, then the workshop can be run in a role-play approach.

The participants were grouped following a role-play design dynamic, therefore representing Oristano’s social actors, e.g. older people, younger people, businesspeople. Participants were able to draw diagrams representing projects and/or policies in one of the 10 systems available, such as Historical-Cultural Heritage (CULT), Natural Capital (NAT), Housing for Sustainable Tourism (TUR-H), Mobility (MOB), Sustainable Mobility (MOB-D), Infrastructure (INFR), Services (SERV), Agriculture-Food (AGRI), Identity (IDENT) and Other. By convergent design ideas and negotiating divergent ones, groups were merging with the aim to reach a maximus consensus over one final design.

This experience, alongside the one I had gained in Asdee and in Utah helped me understand the facilitation dynamics of a Geodesign workshop. Although the software is designed to be user-friendly there can be some challenges for the users. The workshop can be held in one day, but the timing of the activities has to be tightly controlled to unsure that all activities are completed on time. Difficulties with drawing diagrams can be an issue. Another challenge that users have is the colour coding of maps – green, yellow and red. Red means there is no need for design interventions. Yellow means that design is possible but there are consequences. Green means that the area is suitable for design.

My participation at the Geodesign workshop was possible due to the support of CCAT (Coastal Communities Adapting Together).

CCAT is part-funded by the European Regional Development Fund through the Ireland Wales Cooperation Programme.