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Esri CityEngine
Cityengine screenshot.jpg
Original author(s) Pascal Mueller, Simon Haegler, Andreas Ulmer, Simon Schubiger, Matthias Specht, Stefan Müller Arisona, Basil Weber
Developer(s) Esri R&D Center Zurich
Initial release August 2008
Stable release 2013.1
Operating system Microsoft Windows, Mac OS X, and Linux
Type 3D computer graphics, geodesign
License Proprietary (Node-Locked or floating)

Esri CityEngine is a three-dimensional (3D) modeling software application developed by Esri R&D Center Zurich (formerly Procedural Inc.) and is specialized in the generation of 3D urban environments. With the procedural modeling approach, CityEngine enables the efficient creation of detailed large-scale 3D city models with merely a few clicks of the mouse instead of the time-exhaustive and work-intensive method of object creation and manual placement. CityEngine works with architectural object placement and arrangement in the same manner that VUE manages terrain, ecosystems and atmosphere mapping and is equally as diverse in its ability of object manipulation and environmental conformity and harmony as its VUE counterpart. The recent acquisition of CityEngine by Esri is aiming to push the innovations in 3D GIS and geodesign technology.

History and releases[edit]


Procedural Inc. was acquired by Esri in the summer of 2011 ([1])


CityEngine was developed at ETH Zurich by the original author Pascal Mueller, co-founder and CEO of Procedural Inc. During his PhD research at ETH Computer Vision Lab, Mueller invented a number of ground breaking techniques for the procedural modeling of 3D architectural content which make up the foundation of CityEngine today. In the 2001 Siggraph publication (Procedural Modeling of Cities - Yoav Parish and Pascal Mueller) CityEngine is presented for the first time outside of the research community. Several more research papers have featured CityEngine since then.

In 2008, the first commercial version of CityEngine was released by Swiss company Procedural Inc and is used by professionals in urban planning, architecture, visualization, game development, entertainment, GIS, archeology and cultural heritage.


Date Version
July 21, 2008 CityEngine 2008
Nov 20, 2008 CityEngine 2008.2
Dec 17, 2008 CityEngine 2008.3
May 19, 2009 CityEngine 2009
Sept 15, 2009 CityEngine 2009.2
Dec 10, 2009 CityEngine 2009.3
June 23, 2010 CityEngine 2010
Oct 12, 2010 CityEngine 2010.2
Dec 9, 2010 CityEngine 2010.3
Oct 26, 2011 Esri CityEngine 2011.1
Feb 23, 2012 Esri CityEngine 2011.2
Oct 3, 2012 Esri CityEngine 2012.1
Nov 13, 2013 Esri city engine 2013.1


GIS/CAD Data Support: Support for industry-standard formats such as Esri Shapefile, File Geodatabase and OpenStreetMap which allow to import/export any geo-spatial/vector data.

Rule-based Modeling Core: Procedural modeling based on CGA rules allows to control mass, geometry assets, proportions, or texturing of buildings or streets on a city-wide scale.

Parametric Modeling Interface: A convenient interface to interactively control specific street or building parameters such as the height or age (defined by the CGA rules)

Dynamic City Layouts: Interactively design, edit and modify urban layouts consisting of (curved) streets, blocks and parcels.

Map-Controlled City Modeling: Any parameter of the buildings and streets can be controlled globally via image maps (for example the building heights or the landuse-mix).

Street Networks Patterns: Unique street grow tools to quickly design and construct urban layouts.

Facade Wizard: Quickly create rules out of an image or a textured mass model with this simple and easy-to-use visual facade authoring tool.

Industry-Standard 3D Formats: CityEngine supports Collada, Autodesk FBX, 3DS, Wavefront OBJ, RenderMan RIB, mental ray MI and e-on software's Vue, which allow for flawless 3D data exchange.

Reporting (BIM for Cities): Customized rule-based reports can be generated to analyze the urban design e.g. automatically calculate quantities such as GFA, FAR, etc.

Python: Streamline repetitive or pipeline-specific tasks with the integrated Python scripting interface.

Available for All Platforms: Available for Windows (32/64bit), Mac OS X (64bit), and Linux (32/64bit).

Procedural Modeling[edit]

CityEngine uses a procedural modeling approach which means it automatically generates models through a predefined rule set. The rules are defined through a CGA shape grammar system enabling the creation of complex parametric models. A user can change or add the shape grammar as much as needed providing room for new design possibilities.

Modeling an urban environment within CityEngine usually starts out with creating a street network either with the street drawing tool or via maps imported from Next step is to subdivide all the lots as many times as specified resulting in an urban map of lots and streets (see the New York 2259 example). Now by selecting all or some of the lots CityEngine can be instructed to start generating the buildings. Due to the underlying procedural modeling technology all buildings can be made to vary from one another to achieve an urban aesthetic. At this point the city model can be re-designed and adjusted by changing parameters or the shape grammar itself.


See also[edit]


External links[edit]