How Hafencity University Built an Urban Simulation Platform for Refugees

Guided by Ira Winder, HCU students learn to build and hack a tangible interactive matrix from scratch. August 2015. Video by HCU.

In Fall 2015, I taught students from Hafencity University (HCU) how to build and hack their own Tactile Matrix in a collaboration between MIT Media Lab's CityScope project and Hamburg, Germany. HCU eventually used the platform to create the award-winning Finding Places project, a technology-enabled participatory process for refugee planning in Hamburg.

An open source kit of Lego, 4 table units, computer, projector, and webcams were provided in advance.  Over the course of a week, students worked together to build a prototype based upon the nearby neighborhood of Rothenburgsort. After the prototype was built, we taught students how to edit the content and even rebuild the platform for their own future work.

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 Ira (left) and HCU students present prototype at Hamburg solutions conference. september, 2015. Photo by Benno Tobler Ziemer.

Ira (left) and HCU students present prototype at Hamburg solutions conference. september, 2015. Photo by Benno Tobler Ziemer.

The workshop culminated in a demonstration at the Hamburg Solutions Conference, where HCU presented their work alongside major tech companies and research universities.

The work gave birth to the HCU City Science Lab, which has since become a preeminent research entity within Europe that continues to foster research of urban planning and community engagement.

Workshop Contributors

Ira Winder (MIT)
Ryan Zhang (MIT)
Ariel Noyman (MIT)
Kent Larson (MIT)

Tobias Holtz (HCU)
Nina Haelker (HCU)
Katrin Hovy (HCU)
Gesa Ziemer (HCU)

 

Ongoing Work by HCU CityScienceLab

Within months of an initial workshop, Hafencity University independently rebuilt and adapted the tactile matrix for their Finding Places project.  Their goal is to help citizens of Hamburg solve the challenge of allocating refugees in their city via data-driven participation.

A community urban planning session in Hamburg, Germany using Finding Places, a project from Hafencity University.

 HCU Finding Places receives URBACT Good Practice City Label.

HCU Finding Places receives URBACT Good Practice City Label.

Twitter: @citysciencelab