Some Sense of “Place”


I recently did a mass modeling experiment to see what sense of “place” I could create with a single CGA rule file. The subject was simple, a street lined with depressingly identical apartment buildings, not far from where I went to high school in the Chicago suburbs.  I used Open Street Map ( for my street centerlines, created a shapefile of building footprints with ArcGIS Pro and pulled both into CityEngine.  I used the rule file on most of the footprints and extruded others in the distance.

The sense of place was pretty good. Did the look of this place still make me want to jump off a bridge? Sure.

To write the CGA file, I had to get building dimensions and measurements.  I did this photogrammetrically using Google Street View, guessing the measurements based on their relation to sidewalk width, which I put at three feet.   From there, I divided up the facade and inserted elements like windows and textures.  I didn't do an exhaustive job here, just enough to see how using a rule file on building footprints might compare next to the real thing.

A study of facade dimensions

The building facade

The facade divided into floors (red lines) and subfloors (green lines)

Starting to apply textures to facade sections

Textures applied. A new segment is roughed in for the porch/door and front window.

A SketchUp version of the building (upper left). A center window texture is applied to the CGA model.

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