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3D Context in FormIt

by Martin Stacey, matterlab team 2 days ago


Hello FormIt fans!

As designers, we need an understanding of buildings in their 3D environment to evaluate things like right to light, viewing corridors, solar and shadow analysis, adjacent buildings, wind analysis, and so on. In the past, I have spent hours extruding 2D polygons from the footprints of surrounding buildings to ensure I had some form of context to work with.

With FormIt, you can now automate the process of 3D context creation.

3D Context Creator is a new plugin developed using FormIt’s JavaScript API. It combines FormIt’s location services with OpenStreetMap to generate 3D representations of buildings in your project. The best part? 3D Context Creator is free, easily accessible, and open source, so you can even fork the plugin and modify it to fit your needs.


Accessing 3D Context Creator

You can find it in the Plugin Manager, in the Recommended section.

To install it, simply turn on the plugin’s toggle, as you would with any other plugin. Once toggled on, the plugin should appear on the right side of the app and be ready to use.


*If you’d like to take a glimpse at this plugin’s code, 3D Context Creator is hosted on GitHub.

Using the Plugin

The 3D Context Generator plugin takes advantage of FormIt’s location services to ensure that any generated building forms align with FormIt’s satellite images and coordinates. Setting a location in FormIt also allows for a more accurate representation of shadows.


Before using the plugin, begin by setting your site location from the main FormIt toolbar.


Search for your site location, and then click Import Satellite Image and Terrain.


Once the satellite image has been successfully imported into your FormIt project, navigate to the 3D Context Creator plugin.

Adjust the square radius slider to expand the distance (in meters) of the context from the location point.


Once you are happy with the settings, click the Create button. Depending on the size and complexity of the given radius, it may take a few moments to process the building forms.

Enhanced Conceptual Design with 3D Context

Adding the contextual buildings will give you a much better perspective on how your project will feel in its surroundings.


Just for fun…

Are you interested in cities and urbanism? I recommend that you try setting the location in FormIt to different cities around the world and using the 3D context plugin to bring the cities to life. Here are some amazing places we explored using this plugin:

contextcreator9 contextcreator10

Questions or Issues?

We think you'll love the 3D Context Creator plugin, and we hope you'll find it to be an easy (and fun!) way to improve the contextual data that's so important for your conceptual design projects.

Note that, since this plugin is based on OpenStreetMap, the building data quality may vary from location to location.

Having issues running the plugin or want to suggest improvements? Reach out to us on the FormIt forums.