City Engine Research Notes

Geographic information systems (GIS) are increasingly used in preservation practice. Applications range from analytical and predictive techniques to identify cultural resources (Bertron 2013), to web-based GIS tools for heritage inventory (Getty Institute 2013), to rapid survey and online public engagement in Los Angeles’s city-scale comprehensive survey effort (Survey LA 2013), and the development of a participatory GIS web tool in Austin, Texas (University of Texas at Austin 2013). These innovations illustrate the value of GIS and its growing importance to preservation practice. Meanwhile, advances in laser measurement of cultural resources are supporting the production of increasingly detailed 3D building models (Cyark, 2013). The development of online 3D platforms and tools, such as Google Earth, support a growing and globally distributed network of users who generate and share 3D images of buildings and structures. An article in Architect magazine documents several different approaches to the use of 3D modeling in historic preservation, including this research project.

These areas of innovation—2D GIS and 3D modeling—remain largely separate areas of technological advancement in historic preservation. However, governments and institutions around the world are beginning to integrate 3D GIS for planning purposes. Examples include Auckland’s development of a Unitary Plan (Eagle Technology, 2013), planning and zoning analysis in Portland (ArcGISTeam3DCities, 2013), Honolulu’s modeling of transit-oriented development, (City of Honolulu, 2012), and the University of Rochester’s use of 3D for campus planning (ESRI, 2011). There are many more examples of the use of 3D GIS for planning purposes; however, there are few examples of 3D GIS as a tool for preservation planning. This project addresses the growing opportunity to bridge 2D GIS and 3D models.

In this research project, we evaluated CityEngine for use in bringing together the advantages of GIS with 3D modeling.

Part of assessing the usefulness of CityEngine for use in large areas, such as historic districts or parklands, such as Flushing Meadows Corona Park, is understanding the interoperability between different formats. Flushing Meadows Corona Park is an interesting test site, because there are so many different efforts to model and understand individual buildings as well as the park as a whole. Its history as a world’s fair site and also as a site of multiple sports stadia has attracted both fair and sports enthusiasts. Some of these enthusiasts have volunteered their time and effort already, by contributing elements of the Flushing Meadows landscape (past and present). A section below includes links to the Google Sketchup models that we have identified and testing in the models of past, present, and future.

Instructions and Tutorials from this Project

Other Tutorials and Resources for CityEngine

Related Research/Literature

ArcGISTeam3DCities. (2013). City Engine Gallery. Retrieved from City Engine:


Bertron, C. (2013, July 3). Survey Forth! Innovative Survey Methodologies. Retrieved November 10, 2013, from Preservation Leadership Forum:


City of Austin and the University of Texas at Austin School of Architecture. (2013). Austin Historical Survey Wiki. Retrieved from


City of Honolulu. (2012). Modeling the Impacts of Transit Oriented Development in 3D. Retrieved from


City and County of Honolulu Department of Planning and Permitting:


CyArk. (2013). CyArk 500 Challenge. Retrieved November 10, 2013, from CyArk:


Eagle Technology. (2013). 3D Enablement of Auckland Unitary Plan. New Zealand ESRI Users Conference. Retrieved from


ESRI. (n.d.). City Engine. Retrieved November 10, 2013, from ESRI:


ESRI. (Summer 2011). ArcNews. Retrieved from A 3D GIS Solution for Campus Master Planning:


Heritage, E. (2007). 3D Laser Scanning for Heritage: Advance and guidance to users on laser Advice and guidance to users on laser scanning in archaeology and architecture. Retrieved from


Minner, J. (2013, October 15). Long live the ephemeral optimism of the 1939 and 1964 World’s Fairs! . Retrieved November 10, 2013, from Association for Preservation Technology Blog:


Myers, David; Yiannis Avramides, and Alison Dalgity. (Fall 2013). Challenging the Heritage Inventory Paradigm. Getty Conservation Institute Newsletter.


New York City Department of Design and Construction. (July 2013). BIM Guidelines. New York City, NY: New York City Department of Design and Construction. On Last accessed June 13, 2015.


Purdom, G. (2013, October 1). State of the Fairs: World’s Fair Structures Around the US. Preservation.


Queens Museum of Art. (2013). The Panorama of the City of New York. Retrieved November 4, 2013, from Queens Museum of Art website:


Quennell Rothschild & Partners and Smith-Miller + Hawkinson Architects. (2008). Flushing Meadows Corona Park Strategic Framework Plan. City of New York Parks and Recreation Department, New York, New York. Retrieved from


Riberio, Alexandra Ribeiro, José-Paulo Duarte de Almeida and Claire Ellul. Exploring CityEngine as a Visualisation Tool for 3D Cadastre 4th International Workshop on FIG 3D Cadastres 9-11 November 2014, Dubai, United Arab Emirates, Exploring CityEngine as a Visualisation Tool for 3D Cadastre.


Rydell, Robert W., John E. Findling and Kimberly D. Pelle. (2000). Fair America: World’s Fairs In the United States. Washington and London: Smithsonian Institution Press.


Shapiro, Gideon Fink. (2015) “How Mount Vernon’s HBIM Is Helping to Change Historic Preservation.” in Architect: The Journal of the American Institute of Architects. Online version available: Last accessed June 13, 2015.


Taylor, Jeff and Eric Wittner. “Learn How CityEngine is Transforming Planning Urban Design.” Webinar for Directions Magazine. Available at Last accessed June 13, 2015.

3D Models online


1939 World’s Fair

Theme Center from 3D Warehouse

Perisphere and Trylon from 3D Warehouse

1964- World’s Fair

Luminaire Design 1-A-A-A

Luminaire Design 1-A-A-D

Luminaire Design 2-B-A-A

Luminaire Design 4-C-B-I

Luminaire Design 4-C-B-C

Luminaire Design 4-C-B-G

Luminaire Design 5-C-B-B

Luminaire Design 5-C-B-C

Luminaire Design 5-C-B-E

Luminaire Design 5-C-C-F

Luminaire Design 7-C-B-A

Luminaire Design 8-C-B-A (Original Design)

Luminaire Design 9-D-C-A (Revised Design)

New York State Pavilion from Chronoleap

Shea Stadium model

Past and Present

1939 World’s Fair bench (still in use in some areas of the park)

Additional 1939 World’s Fair bench model

Unisphere from 3D Warehouse

Unisphere from ChronoLeap


Arthur Ashe Stadium from 3D Warehouse

CitiField from 3D Warehouse

Flushing Meadows Corona Park on 3D Warehouse

Flushing Meadows Corona Park – Queens Part I from 3D Warehouse

Queens Museum of Art


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