Geographic Information Systems and Software

Geographic Information Systems are ways of modeling and managing spatial data. This used to be a very specialized technology, but its usage and meaning has spread quickly with the rise of map software such as MapQuest, Apple Maps, and Google Earth.

GIS is for Planners, CAD is for Architects

Recent developments in GIS software make it increasingly useable for urban planners, from the national and regional level (its original role) all the way down to urban design at the block level. Many planners in Asia still use CAD (computer-aided design) software for urban design, but CAD really works best for architectural design. Architecture is a discipline centered around design for a single client, even if the project includes multiple buildings. It overlaps with planning at the urban design level, but for planners, it is critical to start thinking at the level and scale of public design serving multiple actors across the public and private sector, from the public space of streets and blocks up to the urban, metropolitan, regional, and national scales. Planners do need to do some specific spatial designs, especially public spaces; but even for a typical street-section the design involves a city’s public-works department and the private developers whose buildings will form the edges of that street-space. Because multiple clients are involved, planners do not have direct control over all aspects of the design. So, to restate: a fundamental difference for planners is that planners do not have direct control over final execution of physical designs. Planners have to let go of direct control, and learn a different art: how to set the rules for general development. Development guidelines like floor area ratio (FAR) and building coverage ratio (BCR) allow other individuals to make those final design decisions.

GIS: first tutorial

Data on Kabul