2009 | raster cities          [back]

Can we increase the sustainability of our cities just by reshaping the urban form? Can we for instance improve energy performance and environmental quality by rearranging the urban fabric? Can we measure and predict environmental indicators at the macro-scale of the city, a scale of action which is seldom considered in energy performance simulations?

A new paradigm for assessing the environment consequences of urban texture is investigated. This is based on the use of very simple raster models of cities, called Digital Elevation Models (DEMs). Using software algorithms derived from image processing it is possible to develop efficient methods of measuring geometric parameters and assessing radiation exchange, energy consumption, wind porosity, etc. Results are extremely fast and accurate; due to the increasing availability of DEMs from lidar, they could open the way to new raster-based urban models for planning and design.

credits: Eugenio Morello, Carlo Ratti with Sergio Porta, Alessandro Balducci
I would like to thank the Fondazione Rocca and its president, Gianfelice Rocca, for providing generous funding for this research. The research project was part of the Roberto Rocca project, a 2 years post-doctoral program (2008-2009) in collaboration with Politecnico di Milano and MIT.
Roberto Rocca post-doctoral fellow: Eugenio Morello; POLIMI supervisiors: Alessandro Balducci, Sergio Porta; MIT supervisor: Carlo Ratti.


Morello E., Ratti C., 2009, "SunScapes: 'solar envelopes' and the analysis of urban DEMs", in Computers, Environment and Urban Systems, 33, pp. 26-34.

Morello E., Ratti C., 2009, "A Digital Image of the City: 3-D isovists in Lynch's Urban Analysis", in Environment and Planning B: Planning and Design, 36, pp. 837-853.

Morello E., 2009, "Progettazione ambientale della forma urbana", in Bertoldini M., Campioli A. (editors), Cultura tecnologica e ambiente, UTET Cittą Studi Edizioni, Torino.

Morello E., Ratti C., 2007, "Raster Cities: image processing techniques for environmental urban analysis", in Thwaites K., Porta S., Romice O. , M. Greaves (editors), Urban Sustainability through Environmental Design: approaches to time, people and place responsive urban spaces, Spon Press, London, UK, pp. 119-122.