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2023  City Robot Lab Hiatus: a Tree Planting Robot

What if city planning was automated according to local climate data? What if urban development prioritized trees over cars and the health of the ecosystem over human comfort and the economy? How would city planning change if we relinquished control to non-human actors? What trade-offs and compromises will we have to make in the face of the climate crisis?

Installation 04.- 05.10.2023


The City Robot Lab HIATUS team have considered these questions and implemented a unique and radical proposal. The HIATUS robots move autonomously through Hamburg planting trees wherever they find urban heat islands, re-greening the city.


By playfully removing the constraints of human needs and desires, as well as economic and aesthetic concerns around city planning, Tree Planting Robot explores possibilities of algorithmic agents solving environmental problems. The project highlights the many delicate balancing acts which cities are required to engage in.

City Robot Lab are:

Rico Herzog, Ieva Jakuša, Carolyn Kirschner, Maria Oiva, Robin Price,

in consultation with GERICS: Gaby Langendijk and Vanessa Reinhart


Tree Planting Robots proposes an alternative approach to city planning by relinquishing control to cold hard climate data and an autonomous tree planting robot. The robot’s single criteria for deciding where to intervene is based on temperature and city planning surface data. If it’s too hot and on the right surface, the robot will drill into the asphalt and plant a tree.​

This implies a radical shift in the logics underpinning city planning, which will be introduced via an immersive webAR experience / game / city-wide intervention — playfully confronting the tensions between economic and environmental concerns. The programming of the robot’s algorithm relies on data from the City Science Lab, using the Connected Urban Twin and agent based modelling and scientific input from GERICS.


In the fall of  2022 CityClimate meets CreativeCoding brought together international artists, data analysts and data curators to work on new data art projects. The basis for these were the digital tools developed at the City Science Lab at the HafenCity University Hamburg. After a year of collaborative exploration, the three day festival presents three projects developed at City Science Lab alongside a selection of current media art, workshops, films, and projects developed at the Centre for Urban Science & Policy @ Delft University of Technology. 

City Science Lab investigates the urban challenges in the era of digitalization in cooperation with partners from civil society, politics, economy, and science. It pursues an inter- and transdisciplinary perspective by linking technical issues with social and cultural developments. As part of their work the City Science Lab develops digital city models based on comprehensive urban data to make future cities more sustainable.



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