Sanders Series Lecture

Siqi Zhu, Samara Trilling, Brian Ho (Sidewalk Labs):
Notes from Computational Urban Design in Practice

2019-10-29 01:00 at Autodesk Research @ 661 University Avenue


Sidewalk Labs aims to improve the quality of human life in cities through technological innovation. One focus of our work is the improvement of existing urban design processes through interactive visualization, optimization, and cloud computation. In this talk, we will share a case study describing our ongoing experiences in applying computation to the design of the built environment; contextualize this work within a broader history of urbanism and technology; outline the ongoing partnership between domain experts, designers and engineers at Sidewalk Labs; and describe the challenges of making a useful and usable tool for district-scale planning and development.


Siqi Zhu

Siqi is Associate Director, Public Realm at Sidewalk Labs, where his work imagines how technology transforms the design and implementation of urban streets and public realm. Before Sidewalk, Siqi headed up product design at Envelope, a NYC-based startup that visualizes development opportunities under NYC zoning. He also worked as a senior designer and project manager at Boston-based Sasaki and Utile, where he oversaw urban planning projects for a variety of public, private, and institutional clients across the US and internationally.

Siqi is passionate about great urban public spaces. He is particularly interested in how a human-centered, research- and data-intensive design process can yield fresh insights about—and build stakeholder consensus around—how we improve the urban public realm. He played a key role in creating Boston’s first Complete Streets guidelines, an award-winning design manual noted for technical and visual communication excellence; and Boston’s 2030 city-wide mobility strategy, lauded for its use of data visualization to engage a city-wide constituency in complex mobility planning decisions. Siqi has also worked extensively with municipal transportation and parks departments, the National Park Service, and other public space managers around the country.

Siqi holds a Bachelor’s degree in Engineering Science from the University of Toronto and a Masters in Urban Planning from Harvard University Graduate School of Design. He has led research projects at MIT Senseable City Lab and currently teaches at Northeastern University’s College of Art, Media, and Design.

Brian Ho

I’m an interdisciplinary designer working at the intersection of society, technology and the built environment.

I believe design creates joy, community and justice. I love citiesinfrastructure and interfaces. I imagine better interactions for complex systems. I’ve helped make servicessoftwarebuildings and plans in TorontoBostonSFNYC and NOLA  … and a few more things.

I work at Sidewalk Labs, an Alphabet company reimagining cities to improve quality of life. My work combines machine intelligence, urban futures and human-centered design.

I graduated from the Master in Design Engineering (MDE)  program at the Harvard GSD and SEAS. I studied at Columbia GSAPP and majored in architecture at Yale. Oh, and I’m LEED AP BD+C certified.

Samara Trilling

Samara is a software engineer at Sidewalk Labs. She received her BA in computer science at Columbia University, and has worked at Google, SheEO, and Sidewalk Labs.