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CityEngine 2015.2

CityEngine 2015.2



The latest release of CityEngine is out! For those using CityEngine on a daily basis I would recommend installing this as soon as possible.  Remember you can install multiple versions of CityEngine on the same PC.   Import/copy your existing projects into the new CityEngine 2015.2 workspace don’t just link to the previous workspace though.

Of particular interest to me was the improved KML support, it seems that I can export out from a scene in BNG to kml without positional errors now.  Also the new ‘dashboards’ feature is interesting, but you’ll need to rethink your reporting to make full use of this!

You can download the new release from your MyEsri account area as usual, but to read more about it click here.



Quick note from GeoPlanIT’s Elliot Hartley: Ruskin Hartley (yes my brother) attended this years Esri User Conference in San Diego on behalf of Garsdale Design Limited, I asked if he could write a couple of guest blog posts for us, this is his first.


Geography is everywhere.  Of course, being a geographer I would say that. But for many people geography means a list of state capitals and perhaps the atlas published by the National Geographic.  I’ve just come back from the 2015 Esri user conference in San Diego and saw first hand that this is changing quickly. While much of the discussion was about new software and tools, the most exciting change is the way these tools are deployed.

Just as Google maps has transformed the way we navigate our world (when was the last time you used a paper map?!), spatial decision support tools are transforming the way we understand the world around us and how we make collective decisions. GIS – geographic information systems – is the tool enabling this transformation.

GIS is not a new technology. It’s at least 40 years old in its modern incarnation and I’ve been using it for about half this time. Having just spent a few days at the Esri user conference, it is clear that the power of GIS as a decision support tool is on the verge of being brought into the heart of the public domain. It’s exciting and has the potential to transform the way we live, work, and govern.

A number of trends are converging to make this possible.

  • Data is being collected in real time and near real-time. Our GPS enabled smart phones are at the front line of this data collection revolution. They are being rapidly joined by an army of drones, and matched up with unprecedented satellite images being updated on a daily basis.
  • Data is shared and available 24/7 on the cloud rather than being hoarded on hard drivesFrom the latest Landsat image, to a live twitter feed, to projections of sea-level rise, we all have access to curated and constantly updated datasets.  Served up through a geoportal, you can quickly find what you’re looking for and know that you’re accessing current data.
  • Powerful GIS analysis and publishing tools are available online. I no longer need a UNIX workstation,  thousands of dollars of software, and an expensive plotter to conduct and share an analysis.  Using ArcGIS online, or one of the other freely available online tools, I can quickly publish and share work.

Bring these three threads together and real-time analysis is available to anyone. In the classic production cycle, experts would take weeks to conduct a static analysis that was shared with the decision makers as a printed map. There was no way quick or easy way to interact with the results. Most of your time was spent preparing the data, rather than conducing the analysis. In the end, the decision maker had to accept what the map said – or risk another lengthy cycle to change things up. It was the classic top-down approach.

Now, I can throw the data up a on a web-site — pulling data feeds from many different places — and give the users simple ways to explore and visualize the data. They can dig in and draw their own conclusions. Or I can walk them through a story map to help them understand what is going on.

This will fundamentally remake the way decisions are made. The environmental review process for development and land use projects can become interactive. Companies can understand spatial trends in real time. In essence, decision making will become democratized as everyone has access to relevant data and analysis.

Does this mean GIS professionals will whither away? Far from it! Rather than just being the folks you go to to make a map, they’ll be at the core of how we collaborate and make shared decisions. Sounds like fun to me!

CityEngine and Bank Barns? Built Heritage meets Geodesign

CityEngine and Bank Barns? Built Heritage meets Geodesign

Variant versus True Bank Barns in CityEngine??

 Imagination is required to use CityEngine, I’ve said this before and I say it a lot in our 3DPathFinder CityEngine training sessions (shameless plug).   The power of the rule file is in it’s ability to be used in other contexts and is often only limited by your imagination.  Some of what I think Geodesign is also about this, connecting up other peoples workflows, joining disciplines together to form a coherent team.

Take the humble rule that places a parapet around a roof top and places a satellite dish inside, this is the same rule that I use to make my infamous “procedural sheep”.  Get your head around that and the world is yours (in a metaphorical sense).

What do you mean you haven’t heard about my Procedural Sheep??!


This leads me to a little rule file I adapted yesterday, my colleague and friend Matthias had created a couple of rule files for a client (Philadelphia University’s Geodesign course).  One rule file coloured a surface depending on the steepness of a slope, which clearly when drawing a path or a road can be useful.  The other rule file was one that placed arrows facing down a slope in a grid pattern, think about water run-off and this is cool, useful stuff.  

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Procedural Amphitheatre

Procedural Amphitheatre


In a free hour (literally 1 hour), I created a CGA rule that creates a procedural amphitheatre.

It is full circle or circle segment based (0-360 degrees), has attributes for inner and outer radius.

 Additionally, I can drive:

  • Number of radial stairs
  • Number of levels
  • Number of sitting rows
  • Walkway width
  • ..

If you’re interested in reconstructions of historic or ancient cities: Contact us!



The future of GeoPlanIT

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!

The Power of Playtime

The Power of Playtime

2014-10-04 12.29.29_small

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’?

Esri UC Q&A – 3D

Esri UC Q&A – 3D

As I’m only interested in the 3D part of Esri’s Q&A for the User Conference I thought I’d paste it here (I’ll probably have some commentary coming as well in a later post) :

More can be read on the official site here.

Esri has written questions and answers to keep our customers informed on our efforts in software development, products, education, and support; future plans in these areas; and our thoughts on GIS and the industry as a whole. Our purpose for sharing this information is to help our users be successful in their use of GIS. Please feel free to share with your colleagues.

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