A New Way to See Cities and Spaces

When Apple unveiled the new mobile operating system, iOS 11, on September 19, staff at SMMA was not preoccupied with the redesigned App Store, the more natural sounding Siri, or the customizable Control Center. No—staff at SMMA was abuzz about the Maps app, which included brand new features like Indoor Maps and Flyover.

According to Apple, Indoor Maps give “detailed directions inside major airports and shopping centers around the world. Find out which restaurants are past security at the airport, where the nearest restroom is, or what floor your favorite store is on at the mall.” Although the Indoor Maps have not yet been rolled out to many locations, our staff could already see the potential.

“The Indoor Maps element allows architects and planners the ability to swiftly understand a building’s massing with a focus on interior programmatic adjacencies while sitting in the very building that is being studied,” said Thomas Merchel, Design Technologist.

 

Apple Indoor Maps in iOS 11

Currently, viewing a location’s Indoor Map shows the relative size, shape, and layout of stores, hallways, stairwells, escalators, restrooms, entrances, and exits, and how these vary floor to floor. But if more detail were added, Indoor Maps could be an essential tool for architects and interior designers, and even electrical designers. Andrew Barros elaborated: “Indoor Maps could potentially be used to find out floor heights, window distances, and measurements. Apple takes great care in keeping their products up-to-date, so this could be an accurate imaging tool if more specifications were added. As an electrical designer, I would love to be able to spot the locations of transformers and above-ground power lines.”

Indoor Maps may enhance client meetings as well, which could make the difference when trying to secure a new client project. Michael Kyes, Architecture Team Leader, was meeting with a client who had a floorplan from the landlord, but couldn’t discern where the south façade was situated.

“If Indoor Maps had been available, I could have quickly accessed the interior layout, fill in the gaps with the client, and learn more about the space—no computer required.” 

 

A View From Above

Another new iOS 11 Maps feature that shows promise is Flyover, which allows the user to “see select major metro areas from the air with photo-realistic, interactive 3D views.” By zooming, panning, tilting, and rotating an iPhone or iPad device, the user is treated to a high resolution, aerial view of the city and its major landmarks. This is especially helpful as SMMA takes on projects across the US—urban planners and architects can “familiarize themselves with entire cities in a matter of minutes,” Merchel added.

“They are now able to understand a city’s scale, urban fabric and density all from a bird’s eye perspective while on the go with their iPhone.”

The best part about Flyover? It’s free and easily accessible!

When scoping out the Flyover feature, Kyes recalled a memory from his study abroad experience in Italy when he was working towards his architecture degree.

“I found a book of aerial photography of Venice that cost $150 and I had to buy it because it was the first time I ever saw photographic visual mapping. The comparison to what we have now with Apple is mind-blowing, and this technology is free and automatically in the palm of your hand.”

Better Mapping Tools for All

While Apple unveiled these new features just last month, Google Maps has been making advances in indoor mapping both on desktop and mobile platforms as far back as 2011. So no matter what kind of device you have access to, Apple and Google both add tremendous value to the architect’s toolkit. Apple’s new mobile operating system is further proof that the architect’s toolkit continues to become more adapted for mobile and allow for extreme flexibility when studying contextual elements of a city or building. Seeing floorplans are helpful in understanding how buildings work, and immersive experiences eliminate the need to physically occupy the space, which is a great tool for architecture. All of us at SMMA are hopeful that the next wave of features will further augment our design processes.

All assets courtesy of Apple Inc.