@betterstreetsAI uses DALL-E to design pedestrian streets

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Canal Street is converted from a driving street to a walking street using AI.
Photo: Google; Best AI Streets

Using SLAB for urban planning is a mixed bag. Architecture prompts sometimes look like a Thomas Heatherwick robot throw trees over everything (which makes me wonder if that’s how he sees all his projects). But it’s proven remarkably effective at turning congested streets into oddly alluring plazas, bike lanes and occasional, accidental, golf course-like greenways.

The account, @betterstreetsAIredid a strip of asphalt on Avenue B in a path planted with wildflowers. Bleecker Street scavengers were replaced by a dedicated cycle path lined with grass. Sunset Boulevard in Los Angeles has a center bike path lined with flowering shrubs and street vendors (and plenty of room for cars). Even streets that are decently passable on foot or by bike are doing better: Thompson Street in Greenwich Village is car-free in favor of a paved walk who takes advantage of all that wonderful tree cover to sit and walk in the shade. In each before and after, there are more shafts of trees, more plants, and more waterholes – cities built to better withstand the heat waves of the past few weeks. (And the flooding that New York experienced before its own heatwave and will likely see it again this week.)

Although DALL-E allows specific streets as prompts – Barcelona is a popular choice — the right words also do the trick. “Right now, the best results come from more descriptive prompts like ‘a leafy pedestrian promenade with wide bike paths, lots of flowers, people walking,'” says @betterstreetsAI creator Zach Katz, an artist based in Brooklyn, who also did safe streets advocacy work in Portland, Oregon. The narrative offers lush, slightly eerie propaganda for reimagining the streets as multimodal public spaces. Showing one version of what is possible is “the the most powerful way to engage people,” says Katz, who uses DALL-E 2a more sophisticated invite-only version of the tool that has just entered public beta.

He also takes requests, so I’ve sent him a few spots that have been on my mind lately.

The new 6th Street Bridge in downtown Los Angeles, basically designed for a car crash, finally gets its much-needed protected bike lane.

A converted BQE looks a bit like a golf course fairway, but we can work from there as it is a huge improvement over the rapidly deteriorating pavement in desperate need of intervention. climate proof.

Listen to me: replace the engineers in the city with robots.

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