Decision Theatre

A Decision Theatre is a facility that has immersive equipment to illustrate plans and visualise data for planners, stakeholders, researchers, and citizens. With the help of advance digital technology, participants can understand professional planning knowledge and express themselves easier. A Decision Theatre is also a place for people to have discussion and to make decision.

Basic Information on the Method
Mode of communication
Group size
1-5, 6-30, 31 and more
Geographical scale
Public space, Neighbourhood, City, Region
Skills required
Basic, Average, Advanced
Resources needed
Level of Involvement
Level of involvement
Inform, Consult, Involve, Collaborate, Empower
Type of knowledge enabled
Divergence (Small groups), Convergence - Small groups
Additional Criteria
Planning phase
Initiatiion, Planning & Design, Implementation, Evaluation & Research, Maintenance
Methodological approach
Diagnostic, Expressive, Organisational, Political

How to use the method

Usually a decision theatre is a long-term facility in a city or institution. Here are two main parts of using decision theatre as a participatory planning method:

The infrastructure of decision theatre

Usually, the core component of a decision theatre is a curved wall of faceted screen, together with tracking devices and stereo surround sound, providing immersive virtual environment.[1] Participants are often semi-surrounded by the screens, in a way that can enhance interactions between each other as well as between participant and the visual information. Behind the scene, a computer or server with sufficient computing capacity should be available to realize the functions such as visualisation, real-time rendering, data analysis, etc. Other supportive technologies and equipment like VR/AR devices can also be equipped in the decision theatre.


The content presented in the decision theatre should be customised according to the screens and interactive equipment to maximize the theatre’s effectiveness.  In addition to being presented by the presenters, the content is better to be explorable for the audience.

What are the outcomes

  • Data visualisation
  • Imformation transparency as the professional knowledge is translated into understandable forms
  • Comprehensible information of multilayer data analysis
  • Increased collaboration between multiple disciplines

Skills required

Skills: basic, average, advanced

  • Skills to use the devices in the desicion theatre.

It depends on what the participant want to do with the facility. It requires more advanced skills when the participant wants to create plans/designs using the advanced devices, but it requires only basic skills when he/she just wants to see a plan/design presented by others.

Resources needed

Resources: high

  • Resources to provide a long-term venue as well as the advanced devices in it
  • Technical support for the required hardware and software

Strengths and weaknesses



  • Visualising raw data, bridging them and the people
  • Helping to establish mutual understanding among stakeholders
  • Helping those have less verbal strength to communicate in decision-making process
  • Providing a place for a more efficient decision-making process


  • Require advanced data-analysis technique
  • Need high expenditures for the venue and equipment

Use cases

Arizona State University

Arizona State University (ASU) has built their decision theatre in 2005. This decision theatre provides immersive environment for not only academic researchers, but also federal, state and local government agencies, planners, enterprise, etc.

CityScienceLab- HafenCity University Hamburg

HafenCity University Hamburg (HCU) founded the CityScienceLab in 2015. The lab has close cooperation with civil society, academic and private sectors. With the support of CityScienceLab, the project FindingPlaces won the Good Prative Award form URBACT-progam of the EU in 2016.


In the digital twin project of the town of Herrenberg in Germany, a Cave Automatic Virtual Environment (CAVE) which has a mobile back-projection wall, a 3D projector including optical tracking equipment and a Vive Pro Head Mounted Display was established allowing  participants to experience the interactive model in collaborative VR environments in groups.[2]

Try one of these tools & resources

  1. Arizona State University
  2. Edsall, R., & Larson, K. L. (2006). Decision making in a virtual environment: Effectiveness of a semi-immersive “decision theater” in understanding and assessing human-environment interactions. In Proceedings of AutoCarto (Vol. 6, pp. 25-28).
  3. HafenCity University Hamburg
  4. [1] Vesikko, A. (2013). Decision Theatre in decision making and urban planning: case: Decision Theatre for Niemi Campus.
  5. [2] Dembski F., Wössner U., Yamu C.: Digital Twin, Virtual Reality and Space Syntax: Civic Engagement and Decision Support for Smart, Sustainable Cities.; 12th International Space Syntax Symposium, July 8-13, 2019; in: Proceedings of the 12th Space Syntax Symposium, 316, Beijing.