Betaville is an open-source multiplayer environment that offers a new approach to the urban design review process. Betaville integrates design proposals for real city spaces into a Google map platform where it can be shared, reviewed, tagged, discussed and further developed. Models can be accepted from Google Sketchup, as well as from more intense 3D rendering programs such as Autodesk Maya. Currently focused on New York, the environment can be used for design competitions, consultation, community review, and as a teaching aid for the presentation of students’ work. In fact, anyone with web access can contribute to Betaville, and every contribution is open for review.
Described by urban designer Giles Thomson as an “architectural conversation”, the dynamic interface of Betaville creates a far more interactive and collaborative environment for planners, designers, and the community at large. Design proposals are typically available for the community to review for a limited amount of time in government institutions, with feedback taking the form of letters to the city council. Thomson goes on to say that Betavillle provides a “democratization of the planning process, taking it out from the closed doors of the bureaucracy.”
The Betaville development team consists of the Brooklyn Experimental Media Center and the Media 2 Culture program of the Hochschule Bremen, Germany, and is funded by the Rockefeller Foundation’s Cultural Innovation Fund.
With a goal to transform the working relationships between planners, designers and the communities they develop, Betaville’s use of open-source strategies provides the opportunity and incentive for public project participation from anyone with the interest, inclination and internet access.