Imagine Blacksburg: Using immersive 3D models to explore density
Newcomb, Cecile Gaines
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This project explores the challenges of increasing density in a college town grappling with how to appropriately respond to expected population growth. It presents a concept idea for a section of Downtown Blacksburg, Virginia that meets the various planning goals for the community. It also experiments with an innovative way of presenting and fostering discussion around this kind of vision by inviting stakeholders to experience models of the concept in an immersive three dimensional environment. Common negative perceptions of density lead to resistance to increased density projects by the public and elected representatives. While there seems to be a consensus of understanding that denser development is preferable to sprawl, Americans in communities across the country have been resisting efforts to increase density. In Blacksburg higher density is often met with fear of student housing located too close to single family neighborhoods. Density resistance is rooted largely in the lack of general knowledge of what density looks like, how it is built, and how it feels once built. The negative aspects of high density neighborhoods, which have caused fearful reactions, are results of poor design, not an inevitability caused by density. This thesis uses two approaches to argue for the advantages of higher density development. Methods include background research of densification elsewhere, a neighborhood redevelopment proposal, and a research event in which a select group of participants completed surveys, viewed presentations of 3D computer models of virtual developments in Blacksburg, and discussed their opinions and thoughts about the models and proposal. This project has demonstrated that 3D modeling is a more effective planning tool for helping decision-makers perceive density and understand the value of quality designs than typical planning tools based on 2D presentations.
- Masters Theses