On the 14th October 2020 we launched the most advanced, fully interactive virtual reality (VR) digital twin ever of a major city.
A collaboration between VU.CITY, the City of London Corporation, Innovate UK, New London Architecture (NLA) and MSA it captures every building, lamp post, window and traffic light to 2cm accuracy across its 2.9 sq km geographical spread – a first in accuracy and detail over such a large area.
“Almost without exception, every decision made on a new building has been based on two dimensional images and videos. Now, for the first time this new technology will give us the opportunity to put buildings into a fully interactive virtual world and experience it at a human scale,” says Alastair Moss, Chair of the Planning and Transportation Committee at the City of London Corporation.
“Working in VR gives us, as Committee Members, the possibility to experience proposed change to the Square Mile before making the decisions that will forever change the future of the City.”
The ability to visualise the present and then conceive and plan the future in a VR environment is a ground-breaking transition in how cities across the world can be better and more easily developed.
“A new day is dawning on the age of planning, designing and building our cities,” says Jason Hawthorne, Founding Director and Chief Digital Officer at VU.CITY. “This is the beginning of many highly advanced urban planning solutions.
“With a single click a virtual twin will show us, for example, what the next tower will look and feel like in seconds, enabling us to rapidly rethink or refine our approach to ensure any change proposed is suitable.”
By supporting collaboration in a virtual space, the model ensures that all involved in the design and commissioning of buildings can review proposed changes together, share knowledge and ultimately come to more informed, meaningful decisions.
“Most people find it difficult to read architects' plans and to understand the impact that their proposals might have" says Peter Murray, Chairman of New London Architecture. “This new technology allows everybody to see what buildings will look like and how they will affect the City’s streets and its skyline. This is the ultimate in tools for community consultation.”
Going forward, however, VR modelling will not just be a way of understanding and experiencing planning changes. It offers huge potential for how we understand and operate our cities, such as enabling “digital tourists” across the globe to immerse themselves in the sights of their favourite cities through their screens, exploring the streets and monuments in great detail.
Using the technology will not be a requirement of planning permissions but it is a tool that developers could opt to use to help realise what the plans offer in terms of space, enhancement of the public realm and to the City.
We are on the cusp of great change with what virtual and digital twins can teach us, with the Square Mile leading the way.
The Square Mile VR model will be accessible at a fully equipped VR centre at The City Centre on Basinghall Street, run by New London Architecture on Behalf of the City of London Corporation. The VR centre will be bookable for up to six people to help facilitate planning discussions and a better understanding of the City’s built environment.