Geo-Positioning Information With Meerkat

As I’ve written before, Meerkat is a really fantastic tool for importing GIS information into Grasshopper. Since many municipalities provide GIS information for free, GIS is an accurate and facile format for introducing geographic information to the GH environment. Meerkat can also be used to provide a framework to translate between geo-spatial and rhino-space coordinates, creating a facile way of mapping geographic locations within Grasshopper.

First, use the Import Shapefile module to prep your GIS files to be referenced by Meerkat. All this means is connecting a Boolean Toggle to the Import Shapefile module and double clicking it- which toggles it to true, activating the Meerkat interface.

Once Meerkat is launched, use the “Add Shape File” button to select the GIS shapefiles you’d like to work with. If this causes Rhino to crash, go into your Components Folder where the Meerkat files are located and unblock the Meerkat component and all of it’s .dll files. This interface is a fantastic attribute of Meerkat as it allows you to crop out any GIS info you don’t want. Use the rectangle at the top of the screen to select the region you’d like to use, then click Crop Shape File(s).


And nothing happens… at least that you can see. Meerkat has saved .mkgis files for you that you now need to reference with the Parse .mkgis module. Use a File Path module to select the correct path(s), and then plug that into the Parse .mkgis module. You may want to turn your Boolean Toggle to False, this will prevent you from launching Meerkat the next time you open your script.


You’ll notice that by default Meerkat positions the GIS information pretty far from the Rhino space origin. One trick to make the data more manageable is to center your data at 0,0.


Use the Area module to get the centroid of the Bounds in Point Space polyline. If you use the Vector 2pt module to calculate the vector between that centroid and a 0,0,0 point (created here by the Construct Point module set to default values), you can then use that vector to center the GIS geometry (Geometry per Shape) in Rhino space. From here you can just use a Polyline Module to create linework from the points.


These steps have created a basemap to work with, but now we need to start positioning geo-spatial coordinates. gHowl’s GEO -> XYZ module does this well, but we need to give it more information before it can run. Use the same vector information we used before to center the Bounds in Point Space polyline on 0,0,0. Explode the polyline, and use List Items modules to isolate the 0th and 2nd point of the polyline. These will become the P1_XYZ and P2_XYZ input of the GEO -> XYZ module.


From here, you need to massage the Bounds in Lat-Long output a little to feed it to the GEO -> XYZ module. The Bounds in Lat-Long output is essentially a string of text that needs to be broken in order to read as two points, use the Text Split module to break up the coordinates at the space. From here, use the List Item module again to isolate each point, then plug them into the GEO -> XYZ. Make sure you put the 0th point into P1_GEO and the 1st point into P2_GEO. Run whatever geo-spatial coordinates you’d like into the P input of the GEO -> XYZ, and you are mapping with Meerkat.

GSAPP’S Cloud Lab on Neural Cartography

Posted by on Sep 4, 2014 in computational ecologies | No Comments


The GSAPP’s Cloud Lab released 50 people with EKG headsets into NYC’s DUMBO to try to measure neurological activity within the urban environment. The study mapped meditation dominant activity vs attention dominant activity to essentially map where people are blissing out and where people are focused. This project is fairly significant because this one of the first projects to use portable devices to understand how we engage with urban conditions.

Though EKG data is fairly limited, the implications of this workflow are huge- as devices that can control objects with our thoughts become more prevalent and mobile, ones that produce more sophisticated analysis of emotional response than EKG are coming as well. As the guys over at the Mind Research Network told me, we have the technology to precisely monitor emotion- it’s just not portable yet. Once these devices are mobile, these workflows that the Cloud Lab are proposing will produce a quantum leap in how we understand urban space.

Read more on the DUMBO Neural Cartography project here.

Passed along by Catherine Page Harris from ::archinect.

Morphocode’s Urban Circulation Data

Posted by on Jul 14, 2014 in Apps, computational ecologies, data mapping | No Comments

Hong Kong – Walking
Hong Kong – Cycling
Hong Kong – Running
Hong Kong – Vehicular Transport

Creators of the GH plugin Rabbit Morphocode have used Humanco Inc’s app Human to describe circulation patterns in 30 cities worldwide. The circulation is broken down by vehicle, giving interesting analysis about how people move through different metropolises. The imagery is remarkably beautiful and insightful… I would not have expected for Montreal to be #2 on this list for car traffic.

More here.

Edit: I incorrectly reported Human as having been created by Morphocode, it was created by Humanco Inc. Thanks @morphocode!

We Feel

Posted by on May 20, 2014 in data mapping | No Comments

We feel is both an use of social media for cultural analytics as well as some fantastic interactive infographics. The site searches for tweets with certain emotional keywords, then allows you to filter by continent, gender and date. Check out the site here.
Passed along by ::clavionline.

Headed to ACSA

Posted by on Apr 8, 2014 in architecture | No Comments

I’m taking my talents to South Beach- I’ll be presenting on the Game On!: The Use of Location Based Technologies In Design Today panel at ACSA this Friday at 5:00pm in Miami. Hit me up at @aw_4 if you’re there.

Citi Bike Visualization

Posted by on Apr 2, 2014 in computational ecologies, data mapping | No Comments

This visualization of Citi Bike usage in NYC was put together by Line Point Path to mark the release of Citi Bike’s System Data. The video’s a gorgeous and fascinating visualization and the Citi Bike Data is a great resource for anyone looking at Manhattan transit.
Passed along by ::Catherine Page Harris.

Meerkat GIS Address Lookup

Since posting last week about Nathan Lowe’s amazing Meerkat GIS, I found this tutorial on how to position your Meerkat Shapefile through an address lookup. Enjoy!

Starlings at Sunset

Posted by on Feb 27, 2014 in computational ecologies, data mapping | No Comments

RISD Professor Dennis Hlynsky uses a digital sampling technique to show the flight paths of birds and insects in this incredible video. Hlynsky describes this patterning as a look at “the dynamics of creatures with small brains who come together on mass.” Truly intriguing work with interesting implications for representational techniques for GPS-based urban analysis.
Passed along by ::Catherine Page Harris.


Posted by on Feb 26, 2014 in architecture, Grasshopper | No Comments

This is pretty amazing- GENERATOR not only preps GH data for web-viewing, but it also preserves the slider functionality… Pretty amazing stuff. Download here.

Meerkat GIS for GH

food4rhino_screenshot (1)
Meerkat GIS is a GH component that loads GIS shapefiles into the Grasshopper environment. The unique element of Meerkat is its ability to prepare and crop GIS shapefiles before loading them into GH, keeping the size of the data to a minimum and keeping things light. Nathan really did a fantastic job of streamlining the interface between large datasets and GH. Download Meerkat GIS here and see Nathan’s tutorial below.