Is it possible to create a real life master plan with City Engine?

Discussion created by tainanfish on Jan 3, 2013
Latest reply on Jan 11, 2013 by tainanfish
Hi everyone,

I am a city planner and urban designer and I am interested in City Engine as I see it as a potential way to speed up our design process and any changes we make to it. My company is located in Taiwan and we work on master plans in Asia where we have to create entirely new cities on a large scale. I have downloaded the City Engine trial version but didn't have too much time to dabble into it yet, I understand that going through all the tutorials etc. might answer my question(s) but I would like to know first if it is worth it or not to delve into this software.

Producing a master plan is very time consuming, since, on top of the conceptual thinking concerning the urban form and various functions of the city, you then have to spend many hours drawing on AutoCAD or similar software to add buildings, roads, sidewalks (with appropriate turn radius according to road type), and so on (not even talking about adding zebra crossings, street lamps, trees or traffic lane markings for renderings, which could be nice to have set up automatically instead of adding them "manually" in the 2D or 3D model or later on in Photoshop renderings). It would be also great to only have to design the major roads of the city and, once they have been properly defined, to have blocks and streets automatically created between these roads so that we could focus on the design and not on dumb, repetitive tasks.

It seems that AutoCAD Infrastructure modeller for instance can do some of these things, but what really sets City Engine apart is its procedural engine that enables users to specify some type of buildings and "populate" city blocks with it.

At the same time, while I can see how great this would be for someone using CE to create an imaginary city for a video game for instance, I am wondering if CE could offer the degree of accuracy and creative freedom needed for real life projects: is it possible to have it for instance respect certain development constraints? Such as following a pattern defined by a few main roads imported from AutoCAD, not creating blocks in areas kept for open space or for historical buildings, etc. Basically, it would be great to be able to import a simple wireline pattern of main roads in City Engine along with the site boundaries and possibly (but not necessarily) a 3d terrain model, assign different road widths, different sidewalk widths and different corner radius to different roads according to different categories (highway - with proper interchanges and access ramps and perhaps toll if possible), artery road, boulevard/avenue, street, alley, pedestrian paths) and specify if they must have bicycle paths or lanes (with correct turn radius and widths for single or double paths) and trees or not (while defining tree distance from the curb edge, distance from tree to tree, and perhaps even choose between a few common tree species) and have CE automatically add all of that. It would also be possible to assign different building types and block types to different zones (residential, commercial...) and add some constraints (for instance, if there is a river, not put any buildings on it and at a certain distance from it). And to easily add some textures to ground surfaces in addition to textures for buildings (I know you can do it for buildings). It would be great if the whole model could then be exported as an accurate 3D model (for instance to use for renderings or as a base for a more detailed site plan) as well as a 2D model only (with only the buildings, roads etc. footprints on the ground, providing it is flat).

Let me know what are your thoughts on that! It would be great if any urban designer has already integrated CE in his workflow and was willing to share his thoughts/pictures here. Again, I am not looking for tutorials here on how to do all of that, I just want to know if all or part of it can be done by CE and if it could be a good idea to integrate CE in my workflow.

Thank you!