Climate change intensifies problems in the Dutch urban climate environment, such as more heat waves and intensive rain showers. However, urban climate problems bring about not only a spatial challenge, but also a social challenge of engaging inhabitants with climate adaptation. Inhabitants do not recognize the occurring problems, due to several perceptual barriers (e.g. high complexity of the problem, low visibility, lack of immediacy of the impacts). The newly defined concept ‘climate revelatory visualisations’ carries the potential to tackle the perceptual barriers of experiencing climate processes. This research examined what type of visualisations can reveal the occurring urban climate problems and their adaptive solutions best, in order to raise urban climate awareness. In a research-through-designing process, multiple design hypotheses (derived from recommendations in literature) in the visualisations are tested on the criteria engagement, clarity, connectivity and trust. The visualisations are embedded in the context of a dense historic labourer’s neighbourhood (Assendorp, Zwolle), since common urban heat problems such as heat stress on hot summer days and water accumulation during peak rainfall occur here. The generated visualisations are assessed on the four criteria by the local community. The quantitative and qualitative test results informed the revisions of the visualisations and provided insights in the effectiveness of the tested design hypotheses.
The research findings show that the climate risks and adaptation measures can be effectively presented in photorealistic and animated imagery, supported by graphic information. The climate revelatory visualisations should contain appealing content in which climate adaptation is positively framed and presented in the personal relevant environment of the target audience. A before/after comparison, in which the solutions are revealed subsequent to the problems provides a positive emphasis on climate adaptation. Visualisations revealing the current situations, and thereby the risks of the climate problems, have a warning function; convincing the audience of the urge for adaptation. While visualisations revealing adaptation measures, have a motivating function by promoting a feasible climate adaptive future of their direct environment. The combination of these ingredients in climate revelatory visualisations can tackle multiple perceptual barriers, and therewith trigger significant steps in the awareness level amongst inhabitants according to Sheppard’s Awareness-to-Action framework.