The future of GeoPlanIT


A global future.

A global future.

GeoPlanIT which has been my private blog since I started, is changing. The idea was that I would muse on the geography/planning and IT (tech) world as well as off topic posts about my life and things that made me ponder.

What you may have notice happen is that my life has been consumed largely by one product (Esri CityEngine). This has been good for me and this business, in fact so much so that I have led Garsdale Design’s business into the 3D city and Esri CityEngine consultancy business.

This is turning into a tremendously successful move, in fact so much so that in September we took on a new colleague who (shock horror) wasn’t a family member!

This was a personal and professional risk taking on a new staff member with barely a business plan in place (it was more of a gut feeling really). But I needn’t have worried in a little over 3 months Matthias (more on him later) and I have made great strides into the CityEngine consulting and training business and see lots of work on the horizon.

This is turning into a tremendously successful move

GeoPlanIT the blog has been a key point of contact for many of you with us, and me in particular and with what CityEngine is capable of. I want to keep that channel open, I’m not big on the ‘corporate’ thing, and GDL is not a big faceless multinational, we’re people who do interesting work as professionally as we can.

As GDL’s CityEngine work has increased my time has been focused elsewhere and I have not been making the blog posts I should. So I’ve been thinking recently, why not be more obvious about this all and make GeoPlanIT the semi-official blog of Garsdale Design? Then I can get other colleagues to do posts and cover a more broad range of topics (that was originally intended anyway).


Once every year Matthias has a beer… (a half)

may I introduce you to the newest member of Garsdale Design, Matthias?

With that in mind may I introduce you to the newest member of Garsdale Design, Matthias? I have asked him to start contributing posts and articles to this blog and I hope to expand this further.

GeoPlanIT will still stay as it always was, a more informal way of talking about my (and now our) interests as well as our work. Yes it will still have a CityEngine focus. As to noticeable changes, well I will make it clearer this is now becoming more of a ‘company’ blog of sorts. No “look how wonderful we are!” stuff here (unless we are excited). No “buy one get one free” sales pitch either.

So what’s on the horizon for GeoPlanIT? Well Matthias has his first blog post coming soon (stay tuned) an introduction really and then he is going to do a post about some really nice work he is doing.


I have a blog post about LumenRT 2015 coming, not a review as such but my thoughts on it and where we see it being used. In the new year GDL has some exciting developments coming that I hope to share with you. I’d also like to finally put to a blog about our first 3DPathFinder CityEngine training event in Miami.

Butter Tarts

Season Greetings and wishing you a successful and productive new year!

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xyHt – Ready (finally) for 3D

Arms crossed, must be serious...

Arms crossed, must be serious…

I’m in the latest edition (December 2014) of the xyHt magazine.

How do current geo and engineering design practitioners view this “3D revolution”? Many practitioners were all-in on 3D long before it became trendy for the masses. We asked for insights from noted GIS/CAD/geodesign expert, lecturer, and GeoPlanIT blogger Elliot Hartley, director of Garsdale Design Limited in the UK.
Hartley specializes in planning and urban development, and visualization and will employ any and all tools appropriate for his domestic and international  projects, including but not limited to City Engine, ArcGIS, AutoCAD, and SketchUp.

My arms are crossed in the photo of me so I must be serious!   You can read it online here (there is an option to download the PDF too).

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CityEngine 2014.1 Patch released fixes 3 issues

ce_2014_1_1703 140831R Splash Screen

Okay for all you CityEngine users, you will need this patch…

Esri CityEngine 2014.1 FileGDB and CGA Compiler Patch

This patch addresses three issues in Esri CityEngine 2014.1. First, the FileGDB Importer now handles short integer fields correctly, instead of converting to a Boolean field. Second, the CGA Compiler is updated to version 1.4 which creates correct .cgb and .rpk files for rule files with styles. Third, a crash is fixed for handling polygons with holes. It is strongly recommended for all users to install this patch.

To get the patch go directly to the download page by clicking here.

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The Power of Playtime

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Our family went to a local tourist attraction the other week.   To visit ‘that’ rabbit whose name is Peter… a small and quite nice attraction with nicely detailed displays of the favourite characters, not to mention an evil gift shop (evil if you have small kids that is).  We’ve read some of the books to our little ones but they’ve also seen the newer Cbeebies TV show so they new what was going on.   My wife and I had problems holding them back, being a small attraction there was a real danger of racing through everything in under 15 minutes and missing some of the details and cute mice.

Then we got to the interactive room and they stopped racing, in the centre of the room was a table…. an interactive ‘touch screen’ table.  The kind daddy dreams he could play with at home.  Both of them (3 and 5 years old) almost immediately set about using it.   The touchscreen had two elements a map where you could bring up streetview style views, and a section of puzzles and colouring-in pictures.  Within less than a minute both of them had ‘got it’.   I had to drag them off this interactive wonder to let other kids have a go.   I noticed a similar pattern emerged in this room, children would enter the room see the table and immediately start playing with it, the adults glanced at the table and went to read some of the static displays round the edge of the room.  Some adults would come to the table and touch a few things but pretty quickly move away and look at other things.

This got me thinking, are the adults avoiding the table because they don’t know what to do with it, or do they not want the rest of the adults to think ‘they’re just playing’?

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Interview on BBC Radio Cumbria – fibre & future proofing rural broadband

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The legendary Martin Lewes!

but it’s far more than a picture or a map it’s one of the most sophisticated programs in the world for designing everything from housing estates to whole cities

On the 16th of September Martin Lewes (@martinlewes) from BBC Radio Cumbria came to visit our offices.   His interest was primarily in the local community broadband project called ‘FibreGarden’.   We had a chat about the work Garsdale Design Limited did and it’s exciting new working in 3D urban modelling using CityEngine.

Listen here to the Radio Interview with Martin Lewes on the Mike Zeller show fast forward to 1:55.12 [Broacast 24th September 2014]

I’ve been asked many times about why we need fibre optic broadband in our area and what it will mean for a business like ours.   Needless to say it will help us stay competitive and allow us to work from the Dales across the globe.   Fortunately they’re breaking ground in October and starting the actual laying of the cables!  You can find our more about FibreGarden (aka DigitalDales) by clicking here.


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Back story – “Master Planning Cities in Iraq” or “Sedbergh, where is it?”

Nasiriyah Overview

Well this is a topical post and it’s not a coincidence! Some of you who know me, know that I’ve been working on a number of city related projects in southern Iraq. Those that don’t, now do…

I’ve already written a couple of times about our Iraq projects more as a mention rather than a full article (apart from this one here “An interesting day at the office GIS & masterplanning in Iraq”), but those who haven’t I’ll give you some background.

For me it is very rewarding work but sometimes it is ‘just another day at the office’ work.  I’ve realised that many people have found what we do and where we do it from to be an interesting story.

…sometimes it is ‘just another day at the office’ work

  1. A family firm
  2. City Master Plans
  3. Iraq Projects
  4. What’s it like working on a project based in Iraq?
  5. Consultation
  6. Training
  7. Location, location, location
  8. Why am I in the Guardian
  9. Sedbergh – Yorkshire Dales or Cumbria

Read more

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In case you missed it: I’m on the Guardian Cities blog

‘We can’t go to Iraq because it’s too dangerous’ ... Derrick and Elliot Hartley of Garsdale Design in Sedbergh. Photograph: Christopher Thomond for the Guardian

‘We can’t go to Iraq because it’s too dangerous’ … Derrick and Elliot Hartley of Garsdale Design in Sedbergh. Photograph: Christopher Thomond for the Guardian

A week or so back I met with Stuart Jeffries a writer for the Guardian to chat about our interesting in work in Iraq and our exciting future in 3D.   The result was what seems like a popular article in the Guardian Cities blog.

Whilst many people have quoted other passages one of my favourites is this:

To my eyes, there’s a touch of the pleasure of playing video games to Elliot’s work – certainly it looks like great fun.

He’s not wrong!

Elliot Hartley and Stuart Jeffries hanging out...

Me and Stuart Jeffries hanging out…

I’ve read a lot of the comments, both below the article and on twitter.  To be fair I think it’s been quite a positive response, clearly the article didn’t address everyone’s concerns though.  As to the usual trolling well that’s the internet.   I think I will write a response to the article and post it here in the coming days, more for my therapy than anything else.  Thank you to all those who retweeted the story and responded both positively and negatively to the story, I genuinely mean that.

You can read more here.

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