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Sub-surface 3D using Esri CityEngine

Sub-surface 3D using Esri CityEngine


In case you didn’t know from our blog Esri CityEngine can handle many types of 3D, not just city data!  Here we are using the cool capabilities (additional layer control and bookmarks amongst other things) of CloudCities to control the geology layers.

OilRig DEMO from Elliot Hartley at Garsdale Design Limited on CloudCities.



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!

GISWORX2015 Conference, Dubai

GISWORX2015 Conference, Dubai


2015-04-21 11.04.28
Nicely produced conference material

Last week Garsdale Design (that is myself and Matthias) attended, exhibited as well as conducted a workshop at the Middle East’s premier annual Esri GIS conference called GISWORX held in Dubai.   This is hosted and run by GISTEC an Esri Distributor. Those who follow me know I’ve been before, in fact I was the guest speaker the first time around (The Power of Play).

IMG_2962 5r
GISWORX2013 Guest Speaker…. Elliot

If you want to see Matthias in a suit click on to read more… 🙂

Procedural Landscapes: Tuscany

Procedural Landscapes: Tuscany

Believe it or not, but this whole scenery was created procedurally. In e-on software’s VUE.


This image is the result of an 8 week online (yes, late evenings and weekends!) 3D Workshop I just recently completed (my second already) on CGSociety.

Everything is procedural: The terrain model, the vegetation (each plant plus the distribution), the volumetric clouds and haze. Even the main attraction: The almost too well hidden villa.
The villa is a procedurally generated model coming from CityEngine, which was manually placed.

Rendering this single image took about 26 hours on my quite fast hex-core machine. Minimal post work was done in PhotoShop.

I’m ready for some holiday in that villa now!


Sharing Resources

Sharing Resources

You may not know but I work for Garsdale Design Limited and our work requires a lot of research, we use many websites in the course of our projects for information and research.  The list is very large and so we have decided to share these website links as well as reviewing and giving mini-guides to their use.   It’s part of a small publicity drive, but we benefit also by being able to access these links regardless of our location (did I say homeworking?!).

Our Heritage Specialist has started by sharing History, Heritage, Building Conservation and Archaeology links these can be found on Garsdale Design’s Resource Pages.

Please feel free to have a look at these pages, its very much work in progress at the moment and deciding how best to manage and display these links is a challenge!

Article: Fit for Purpose? – dismal progress with LDFs

Article: Fit for Purpose? – dismal progress with LDFs

Article: Fit for Purpose? – dismal progress with LDFs

Yet more evidence has emerged recently which serves to underline the problems with the new plan-making system introduced only six years ago. Ministers hailed the Planning and Compensation Act, 2004 as heralding a new era in urban planning. They promised faster and cheaper plans and ones with more public engagement.

This article is written by Derrick where I work at Garsdale Design, LDFs from my perspective as a former Development Control Officer have always been mixed bag.   I understand the desire to improve and simplify the system but the LDF process has become more cumbersome than the previous Local Plan system.   It’s a shame because there were some good ideas in the LDF system and Planning is such an important part of government (national, regional and local).

Derrick highlights problems with actually completing this new LDF process by Local Planning Authorities and that Planners are of the opinion that this new system has not made quicker the process of plan making.   I’m sure anyone who has worked in a Local Authority as a Planner (Policy or Development Control) could tell you they don’t need a survey to tell them that!

My concern is that this plan making process is furthering the feeling of disenfranchisement that the public already have.   This is a difficult area, on the one hand a lot of the public feel big development will just be passed regardless of their opinion.  At the same time people applying for extensions or dwellings feel thwarted at every turn by red tape and strange ideas about what is accpetable development (I can’t have PVC windows?).   Yet Developers see the system as overly complicated and very slow.   Pleasing all sides was always going to be difficult.   Unfortunatley what’s certain is that the Planning system needs to change again, lets hope whoever gets in after the election learns from previous mistakes.

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