How Plex.Earth is Used in Teaching: An Interview With Professor Martin Cajade

GIS Contributor


Plex.Earth is a hybrid desktop/cloud-based software developed by Plexscape. Eleni Natsi from Plexscape recently interviewed Martin Cajade, who teaches in the Faculty of Architecture, Design, and Urbanism (FADU) in the University of the Republic in Uruguay, about how his students incorporate Plex.Earth as a data mining tool.

[Interview]: Plex.Earth finds its way into the architecture academia in Uruguay

Almost everything we do nowadays produces data both in the online and physical world: From requesting directions in Google Maps and posting on Twitter to generating data about the social behavior of people in urban spaces through digital technologies.

In the not-so-distant past, architects and civil engineers used to design buildings with paper and pen, but nowadays they’re embracing the brave new frontier of BIM and big data.

The fact that huge quantities of data are generated on a daily basis affords practitioners new possibilities to understand people and places more deeply to inform their design. In the near future, the impact of sophisticated data on architectural design will be transformative.

If architects are to harness them from the built environment itself, we might witness even more significant changes related to their actual use (by whom and for what  purposes).

What’s for sure is that the architecture industry is rapidly changing before us and students of the art must be prepared for what is coming.

Martin Cajade, who teaches in the Faculty of Architecture, Design, and Urbanism (FADU) in the University of the Republic in Uruguay, is among the professors of a specialized course on the use of data in architecture.

In a workshop, he and his students used Plex.Earth in a fruitful way that makes us really proud. We were super interested to find out more and we kindly asked Martin some questions.

Plex.Earth:Can you give us some details about the architectural workshop you co-organized in FADU? 

Martin Cajade:Yes, sure. Taller Perdomo (Perdomo workshop) is part of the Architectural Project Department (DEAPA) withinthe Faculty of Architecture, Design, and Urbanism (FADU)in the University of the Republic in Montevideo. As part of the  workshop, we developed “Arquitecturas Digitales” (Digital Architectures) a specialized course on the use of data in the architectural design process.

The aim of this course is to explore how data can be used beyond their obvious representational value, as a valuable source to design unique and more efficient buildings.

During the semester, we explored various strategies harvesting data and then we used them as a source for our architectural designs in different landscape scales.

In one of the course exercises, each student had to select and study a specific topography and then experiment with the manipulation of landscape and biomimeticarchitecture, taking specific data into account.

Plex.Earth: Do you think that this kind of courses can help students in their professional life and if yes, how?

Martin Cajade:I believe that Big Data and BIM will greatly impact the ways in which future cities, and buildings will be designed and constructed. However, we are at the beginning of this journey: in the near future, the access to sophisticated data will help architects design safer, more efficient and more environmentally friendly buildings in ways we cannot imagine.

Consequently, we hope courses like the one we’re doing in FADU, will give students a competitive advantage by equipping them with everything they need to succeed in their future careers, including a new innovative thinking in the architectural design.

Plex.Earth: How did students use Plex.Earth during the workshop?

Martin Cajade: The main use of Plex.Earth was as a data mining tool. Students brought imagery from Google Earth into AutoCAD and then imported elevation points, created a terrain mesh and generated contours. Given that they were familiar with Google Earth and AutoCAD, using a platform, like Plex.Earth which brings together both programs  made it easy for them to work on their projects (an explanatory video and a recent article on the AutoCAD blog explains this process).

A part of a student project, imagery from Google Earth was brought into AutoCAD and then imported elevation points, created a terrain mesh and generated contours
Using Plex.Earth to connect the two programs as part of a student project, imagery from Google Earth was brought into AutoCAD and then elevation points were imported to create a terrain mesh and generate contours. From left to right: Image 1: Actual landscape in axonometric view, Image 2: Landscape manipulation, Image 3: Image of the result.

Plex.Earth: In what way(s) has Plex.Earth possibly helped students overcome any difficulties related to the project(s) assigned by you as a professor? What were the results/benefits of using Plex.Earth?

Martin Cajade:When it comes to landscape architecture, there is a pedagogical void that we the teachers, should put our efforts to overcome.

Students have a difficulty to grasp a full sense of scale which plays a major part in landscape design conceptualization.

Let me explain this a bit more: the dimensions of a region or a site landscape are always experienced with a surrounding context – thus understanding the manipulation of landscape context is a crucial aspect of design proficiency in landscape architecture.

With Plex.Earth, we could overcome this: Bringing imagery into AutoCAD, made it possible for students to measure and understand the proportions of each particular site.

The results were super interesting: the students could choose and compare site landscapes understanding different size­ dimensions and scale and thus gaining confidence in the design process.

Furthermore, the fact that students could visualize terrain morphology with elevation contours and terrain mesh, helped them design more efficiently, because they could really see everything from the very beginning of their project; every bump, dimp, channels, ridge etc. The access to this kind of data helped them understand different aspects of their design and make sound decisions at any stage of their project.

Most importantly, they could make the most of the data provided by Plex.Earth and apply biomimicry principles to their landscape architecture designs.

Plex.Earth:What were the impressions of your students after using Plex.Earth?

Martin Cajade: Once students became familiar with Plex.Earth, it greatly helped them in their projects and boosted their productivity, while the whole process was both fun and educational!

Plex.Earth: In your opinion, can the knowledge of Plex.Earth be an asset for future graduates to land a job in their field or for their professional development in general?

I believe it is a valuable asset, especially for students who want to pursue a career in landscape architecture and regional planning.

Plex.Earth:Have you ever conducted any academic research with the help of Plex.Earth related to your field of expertise?  

I am about to start my master’s thesis in Planning and Urban Development focusing on large housing complexes in Montevideo. I am sure Plex.Earth will be a very useful analytical tool that will greatly help me to import imagery and publish georeferenced 3D models to Google Earth.

About the Author

Having a strong background as a professional journalist and copywriter, Eleni Natsi is currently working as a Marketing and Communications Director at Plexscape. She combines a deep love for technology, arts and academic research. (Social media: Linkedin profileTwitter profile)

About Plex.Earth

Plex.Earth is a hybrid desktop/cloud-based software, developed by Plexscape, that accelerates the design process of architectural, engineering and construction (AEC) projects. The application  enables designers to have the complete 3D geographical view of their real-world project sites within minutes, through Google Earth and other satellite data providers.

About the Course

Taller Perdomo: Course on Digital Architectures, FADU, Universidad de la República,Montevideo, Uruguay (Course presentation )


  • Martín Cajade
  • Catalina Radi
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