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Introducing Explore: Generative design for site planning

Product News
May 4, 2020

We’ve all found ourselves, at some point, stuck in a creative rut. For architects and developers, this can have significant consequences; unless overcome, it can be easy to overlook great solutions. If we want to build truly better cities then we need to find new ways to challenge ourselves — ensuring that we create a built environment that improves people’s lives.

With this challenge in mind, we’re excited to launch Explore, the next generation of our generative design feature. We believe Explore has the potential to transform the planning and design process and provide users with inspiration as they seek that ‘Aha!’ moment. In this article, I’ll explain what it is and why we believe that it will be transformational.

Exploring all the avenues

With Explore, architects and urban planners can continuously generate and review different site proposals, and focus in and iterate at both a macro and micro level. Users can make changes at any point in the planning process and immediately see the impact and alternative options for their site, all in one fast and uninterrupted workflow.

With Explore, you can discover more options for your site than ever before!

Science and research back the site proposals that the platform suggests. Spacemaker’s AI looks to fit meaningful building structures into sites, delivering more structured proposals. It also takes into account various parameters the user can set, such as building or street width, and presents the user with a range of practical and intelligent concepts.

Explore isn’t replacing creativity. Instead, it provides inspiration. It uses AI to deliver a vast number of options but it is up to the user, using their experience, to select those that they wish to investigate further; the user is in control, with Spacemaker supporting their decision-making.

Studies in Spacemaker

We decided to embed the generative feature into the existing analysis and collaboration workflow in the form of Studies. A Study is defined by a set of parameters for layout generation and will often have a number of generated proposals associated with it.

For example, when you use Explore for the first time, you are presented with an empty study. You have the option to set parameters including footprint, layout types, and height settings.

Example of input to a Study; Building parameters and Layout types

Clicking the ‘Generate’ button will result in a number of proposals being created. You can preview them in 2D, filter them down, and click on them to see a proposal in 3D. You can also select certain proposals and add them to your favorites. At any time, by clicking ‘Update’, you can view a new range of proposals.

A set of favorites belongs to one particular Study and your favorite proposals will be kept even if you continue to update your Study.

Iterate, analyze, evaluate

We’ve always encouraged a collaborative, iterative approach within Spacemaker, enabling decisions and changes to be made on the fly with the support of our AI and tools. Explore is no different.

One of the most powerful aspects of Explore is the ability to pick and choose the elements that work, while continuing to look at other options for the remainder of the site. In the example below, the buildings in gray are locked, while Spacemaker is continuing to offer new proposals for the buildings in white.

It is possible to choose which part you are happy with (grey buildings), and which ones you want to continue to explore (white buildings)

Explore’s true power is unleashed when you consider it alongside Spacemaker’s other features. Our Design and Analyze functions are crucial for establishing the best proposals for a building site. But it is the combination of artificial intelligence with computational design that puts a comprehensive list of scenarios into our users’ hands, allowing them to find a solution that maximizes the potential of a neighborhood for all stakeholders involved.

Brainstorming with the cloud

When looking for advice, the quotes of Dr. Seuss often seem far more appropriate than one might expect: “Think left and think right and think low and think high. Oh, the things you can think up if only you try.” In other words, creativity requires the ability to consider a number of different perspectives.

When it comes to site planning, we see Explore as a powerful creative tool — helping architects and developers gain new perspectives by understanding the sheer range of options available to them. By connecting it more closely to the existing functions, we make generative design far more accessible to users, regardless of their digital capabilities.

A large team within Spacemaker has been working on Explore, and we’re all excited to finally be able to talk about it publicly. More so, we’re intrigued to see how users will collaborate and what they will create when using Explore alongside our many other features.

If you are a developer, architect, engineer or municipality and you want more information on Explore then please do get in touch with us at


Klara is Head of Design at Spacemaker. As the first designer in Spacemaker she has been a crucial part of forming the Spacemaker tool to what it is today. She holds a master’s in Product Design and has over 15 years of experience designing great products.

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