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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
2014.1 / September 15, 2014
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 supports the creation of detailed large-scale 3D city models. CityEngine works with architectural object placement and arrangement in the same manner that VUE manages terrain, ecosystems and atmosphere mapping.

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 techniques for procedural modeling of 3D architectural content which make up the foundation of CityEngine. In the 2001 Siggraph publication CityEngine was presented for the first time outside of the research community.[1] Several more research papers have featured CityEngine since then.

In 2008, the first commercial version of CityEngine was released by the 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 CityEngine 2013.1
June 1, 2014 Esri CityEngine 2014
Sept 15, 2014 Esri CityEngine 2014.1
----,---- Esri CityEngine 2015.0
----,---- Esri CityEngine 2015.1
----,---- Esri CityEngine 2015.2


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 (computer generated architecture) rules allows to control mass, geometry assets, proportions, or texturing of buildings or streets on a citywide scale.

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

Dynamic City Layouts: Interactive design, editing and modification of urban layouts consisting of (curved) streets, blocks and parcels.

Map-Controlled City Modeling: Global control of buildings and street parameters through image maps (for example the building heights or the landuse-mix).

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

Facade Wizard: Rule creator and 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.

Reporting (BIM for Cities): Rule-based reports to analyze urban design, e.g. automatically calculate quantities such as GFA, FAR, etc.

Python: Integrated Python scripting interface.

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

Procedural Modeling[edit]

CityEngine uses a procedural modeling approach to automatically generate models through a predefined rule set. The rules are defined through a CGA shape grammar system enabling the creation of complex parametric models. Users can change or add the shape grammar as much as needed providing room for new designs.

Modeling an urban environment within CityEngine can start out with creating a street network either with the street drawing tool or with data imported from or from Esri data formats such as Shapefiles or File Geodatabase. The next step is to subdivide all the lots as many times as specified resulting in a map of lots and streets.[2] By selecting all or some of the lots CityEngine can be instructed to start generating the buildings. Due to the 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.


Discussions on geodesign often mention the use of Esri CityEngine,[3] although it is not an analytical tool like GIS. It fits in with the geodesign narrative of aiding quicker iterative design.


See also[edit]


External links[edit]