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Minecraft Used for Urban Planning

Friday, July 7, 2017

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A video game developer is pairing with a sustainable cities initiative to build new life into public spaces brick by brick—or block by block.

Block by Block, put together by Mojang and U.N. Habitat, uses the popular video game Minecraft to help people, especially kids, from all walks of life, visualize changes for urban spaces.


Block by Block, put together by Mojang and U.N. Habitat, uses the popular videogame "Minecraft" to help people, especially kids, from all walks of life, visualize changes for urban spaces. With a Swedish predecessor, the initiative strove to help upgrade up to 300 spaces by 2016.

Since Block by Block’s inception in 2012, the program has been involved in more than 25 countries, including Nairobi, Peru, Kenya and Haiti. In this context, Minecraft is used as a community engagement tool in designing public spaces.

Block by Block

The program puts together a series of workshops of 30 to 50 people each, many of whom live and work near the public spaces in question. From there, groups of three to four are formed, and each group learns how to use Minecraft. Presentations with public space ideas are made to local shareholders and government officials, and the final results are handed off to an architect, who renders them into architectural drawings.

"Older residents who have never used computers before are taught by young guys," said Pontus Westerberg, the coordinator of Block by Block. "So you get this really nice intergenerational communication going on."

Minecraft as a Tool

Minecraft, which is the second best-selling game of all time with 121 million copies sold, essentially acts as a set of digital LEGO Bricks, leaving the player completely free to build and tinker in the world as they see fit. The game’s flexibility and the imagination fostered by these workshops has been felt especially in poor communities in developing countries. This entire endeavor has also helped young people become more involved in urban planning.

Block by Block

In Palestine, Block by Block worked with 50 teenagers to build a park in East Jerusalem.

"I spoke to the mayor of Nairobi and the head of the urban planning department after the presentations, and they were just amazed to see that young women from slums could actually design as architects or urban planners,” Westerberg added.

To date, a group of teenage girls in Hanoi used Minecraft to help develop security solutions for their neighborhood. In Kosovo, an old market space was turned into a public square. In Palestine, Block by Block worked with 50 teenagers to build a park in East Jerusalem.

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Tagged categories: Research and development; Urban Planning

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