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In this paper, we discuss the need for increased research into the development of sophisticated but easy-to-use simulation and analysis tools that can be used by urban designers to guide the development of urban design projects. We also present the current status of a research project under development by computational designers at Skidmore, Owings, and Merrill Limited Liability Partnership, an architecture and urban design firm, to address this need within the profession. The practice of urban design has historically incorporated relatively little performance-based mathematical rigor within the processes of designing cities. Instead, there are a number of codified and uncodified design theories, principles, and assumptions that are adopted or proposed by talented senior designers according to intuitions developed after encountering numerous examples of successful and unsuccessful urban design strategies. With the development of a reliable set of simulation and analysis tools, many of these urban design theories, principles, and assumptions could be evaluated for effectiveness with much greater certainty than is currently possible, bringing a higher level of rational and rigor to the practice of urban design.
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