Co-designing through citizen response mapping

A screenshot from the mobile application CitySense. Credit: Artefacto.


The aims of the mobile application, CitySense, are to offer citizens a chance to see upcoming urban projects in virtual or augmented reality, and to contribute to the co-creation process in the design phase. The app combines augmented reality and virtual reality visualization techniques with the exp-EIA©️ methodology. It promotes effective and transparent communication between citizens and the private and public sectors. CitySense can be used to inform citizens about an upcoming project, as a consultation tool for asking people’s opinions, combined with questionnaires, or in co-production, using the analysis as real-time feedback to update a project proposal and share the results with participants. It records people’s reactions and emotions to urban design projects, making it a validation tool for architects and planners. Citizens’ feedback gives architects the ability to improve a plan before construction, and developers and decision makers will be able to use the data gathered to maximize a project’s sustainability. This will also minimize conflicts during the implementation phase. The methodology enables the collection of emotional reactions to nature-based solutions in a questionnaire. For example, citizens are asked to describe their reactions under four headings when experiencing the planned urban projects: pleasantness, unpleasantness, excitement and lethargy.

Description of practice

The environmental exploration and data collection took place using the exp-EIA© method developed by Politecnico di Milano. Interviews were conducted with private and public sector decision makers, during which both the difficulties and the usefulness of the app were discussed. There was then a second round of feedback with the decision makers on designing the app before an improved beta version was released.

Who was involved

The official partners in the project are Augmented Reality for Collaborative Urban Planning (AR4CUP); Artefacto (designs and produces 3D communication tools), the lead small and medium-sized enterprise (SME), which owns the product and manages the marketing and communication strategy; Politecnico di Milano, the research partner in architecture and urban studies; and VTT Technical Research of Finland, the augmented reality research partner.

Promotion and communication

The commercial website and initiatives were shared by email. 


Knowledge of psychology, environmental psychology, social sciences and data collection.  

Time commitment

Implementation took about two years; the Beta version of the app was finished in 2019 and the improvements were made in 2020.

Level of participation
  • No participation (stakeholders/citizens were not included) 
  • Informing (informing citizens about what is planned) 
  • Consultation (offering options and listening to the feedback)  
  • Co-production in some of the aspects 
  • Co-production from start to finish
Urban planning challenge(s) tackled Governance and institutional factors

  • Working collaboratively
  • Standards and regulatory processes
  • Finance

Stakeholder engagement 

  • Public acceptance
  • Shared decision-making 
  • Social inclusion

Knowledge and skills

  • Awareness and communication
  • Expertise
  • Technical integration

Lessons learned

● Private sector companies are not always eager to involve people in large projects. They are afraid of biased feedback because of previous negative association with the area, project, company, and so on. CitySense allows people to express their honest emotional reactions to urban greenery and to design a green infrastructure solution.

● The app is flexible and can be used early on in the process to assess current conditions and inform the brief before the design phase; in the different phases of design, including on alternative design solutions; and after completion as a post-occupancy evaluation tool.

● Implementation, and finding and resolving constant fixes within the application require time and patience. Flexibility is key in app creation.


● People’s reactions are based on solid theoretical components and not just focused on physical aspects.

● An innovative co-creation app that uses psychological, digital and cartographic aspects to assess citizens’ opinions and highlights the importance of co-design processes.

● The ability of real estate developers and architects to change their designs according to data collected from citizens and thus make a project more sustainable.

Read more  

Description of the app and assessment of nature-based solutions

For more case studies see