Expanding Geographic Space

The term geo in geodesign can be simply defined as geographic space – space that is ref­erenced to the surface of the earth (geo-referenced).

In general, thinking of geographic space brings to mind a 2D geographic space (a flat map) or, for those who are a bit more advanced in their thinking, a 2.5D geographic space – that is, an undulating surface (a relief map). This thinking could also be extended to include 3D geographic space, providing the ability to geo-reference what lies below, on and above the surface of the earth, including what exists inside and outside buildings, as well as 4D geographic space, giving the added ability to geo-reference time-dependent information such as population growth or the migration of a toxic plume through a building. It can also be extended to 5D space, using the 5th dimension to refer to any number of performance indicators.

These extended views of geographic space (moving from 2D to 3D to 4D to 5D), coupled with the idea that most data, at some level, is spatial and that all types of spatial data (physical, biological, social, cultural, economic, urban, etc.) can be geo-referenced, lead to an expanded view of what is typically envisioned, or imagined, when referring to the geo portion of geodesign. This expanded view is embodied in a new concept that is beginning to emerge within the geospatial community … that of geo-scape.

Geo-scape is the planet’s life zone, including everything that lies below, on, and above the surface of the earth that supports life. Geo-scape expands the view of what constitutes the content of geography as well as the dimensional extent of the geographic space used to reference that content. As a consequence, it also expands the domain of geo in geodesign to include everything that supports or inhibits life.

Geo in geodesign thus refers to the full spectrum of the earth’s life support system and extends our thinking to move from

Land –> Land, water, air

Surface –> Below, on, above the surface

2D/2.5D –> 2D 2.5D 3D 4D 5D

Rural –> Rural and urban

Outside buildings –> Outside and inside buildings

Objects –> Objects, events, concepts, and relationships

Each of these moves, or shifts in our thinking, represents a significant transformation in the way people think about geography, geodesign and the use of geographic information systems (GIS).

Defining Geodesign

Given our more holistic understanding regarding the definition of design, coupled with our expanded view of what we mean when we talk about geographic space, we can define geodesign as:

“Geodesign is the thought process comprising the creation of an entity in geographic space”.

Or, more simply stated, geodesign is design in geographic space (the planet’s life zone). Cor­respondingly, the purpose of geodesign is to facilitate life in that geographic space (the planet’s life zone).

The essential aspect of this definition is the idea that design – the process of designing (creating or modifying) some portion or aspect of the environment, be it natural or man-made – occurs within the context of geographic space (where the location of the entity being created is referenced to a geographic coordinate system) as opposed to conceptual space (creating something in the imagination with no locational reference), paper space (creating something with pencil and paper, again with no locational reference), or even CAD space (where the enti­ties in that space are referenced to a virtual coordinate system as opposed to a geographic coordinate system).

At first glance, this seems to be a trivial point. However, the fact that the entity being created or modified is referenced to the geographic space in which it resides means that it is also, either directly or indirectly, referenced to all other information referenced to that space. This means that the designer can take advantage of, or be informed by, that information and how it relates to or condi­tions the quality or efficiency of the entity being designed, either as it is being designed or after the design has matured to some point where the designer wishes to perform a more comprehensive assessment.