AI-supported City Planning for more feminist Urban Spaces!

May 31, 2024
Vanessa Hochwald

During the Asia and Pacific Transport Forum in May 2024 in Manila the GIZ Projects “NDC Transport Initiative Asia” and the “TUMI Women mobilize Women” Initiative hosted the session “Building Feminist Cities: Looking at the Intersection of Inclusivity”. GIZ Data Lab had the enormous pleasure of supporting them with an innovative approach to inclusive and feminist transport planning by leveraging AI-generated images.

Before the session, GIZ Data Lab used the UrbanistAI Platform to generate AI-augmented images of real sites in Manila. The images were generated according to criteria of feminist urban and transport planning, searching not only to include a gender-responsive lens but to highlight potential transformative aspects of urban planning. Based on photos taken of the sites in Manila, the augmented images contained elements for security in public spaces, such as emergency buttons, cameras, female security personnel and lighting, as well as elements to ensure the inclusion of elderly people, children and people with disabilities, such as wheelchair access ramps, tactile pavement, loudspeakers, clear signage and wide passages. Benches, drinking fountains, inclusive and accessible restrooms for all genders and green urban areas were used to design public spaces that foster encounters in pleasant, healthy surroundings. The use of public areas to display job ads for women and minoritized groups, feminist and local artworks and publicity fostering culturally inclusive messages was designed to boost self-confidence of marginalized groups, send positive messages for cultural identity awareness, and help revert economic imbalances through economic empowerment.

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Photo of an Urban Space in Manila AI-generated Image of the Urban Space

At the conference, participants engaged in a highly attended workshop which led them to visit the actual sites in Manila where the photos were taken. In the format of a “Jane’s Walk”, a community-based urban exploration named after the renowned urban activist Jane Jacobs, the attendees of the session discovered the urban sites while being equipped with the AI-generated images on postcards, facilitating the imagination exercise of what a more feminist city could look like. Feedback from participants highlighted the significant interest and enthusiasm for addressing gender-transformative solutions, emphasizing the necessity to commence such initiatives promptly.

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AI-generated Images on Postcards at the Asia and Pacific Transport Forum Participants of the Session during the Jane’s Walk

By using AI, the images brought a heightened level of clarity and focus to the discussions, making it easier to identify areas with substantial room for improvement. Participants noted that these visual aids were particularly effective in showcasing the shortcomings of urban planning and transportation infrastructure, even in the more developed districts of Manila. The AI-generated images not only facilitated a deeper understanding of the current urban landscape but also sparked meaningful conversations about potential solutions and strategies for creating more inclusive urban and transport systems.

The positive reception of the AI-generated images demonstrated their potential as powerful tools in urban planning. This innovative approach marks a significant step forward, emphasizing the importance of incorporating diverse perspectives and cutting-edge technology to address the complex challenges of modern urban development.