One of our most popular API’s is the locations API. The locations API is used to get campus buildings, extension campus locations, and dining locations on campus. Since the word “location” can be used to describe many types of places, we actively source new locations to add to the API and discover new data to add to existing locations. While sourcing new locations and data, we work with data stewards to ensure the data we are providing is accurate and true. One example of enhancing existing locations in the API is the recent addition of building geometries to Corvallis campus buildings.


Initially, campus buildings in the locations API included a coordinate pair in their data which represents the centroid of a building. This can be useful as an alternative to the building’s address to place a point on a map to represent the building’s location. Better yet, the coordinates can be used to query against by specifying lat and lon query parameters in the URL of a locations API request. Using these parameters queries buildings that are close to the coordinates provided in the URL. Use the distance and distanceUnit query parameters for a more specific query.

Here’s an example of a locations API request that returns all locations that are within 300 yards of the Valley Library:


Centroid coordinates are useful for performing actions related to the distance, but what if you want to draw the shape of a building on map? A new dataset we recently added to buildings is geometry coordinates. Geometry coordinates can be used with services like the Google Maps API to draw building shapes on a map. A good open source alternative to the Google Maps API is Leaflet which can also map coordinates from the locations API.

Buildings in the locations API now have a geometry object which follows the GeoJSON specification for a geometry object. Within the geometry object is type and coordinates. Type will either be Polygon or MultiPolygon, depending on the location. Locations that have multiple physical structures will be MultiPolygon (like Magruder Hall) and Polygon is for a location that only has one structure. Most buildings on campus are polygon locations.

Let’s take a closer look at a simple polygon location, Hovland Hall:

"geometry" : {
"type" : "Polygon",
"coordinates" : [ [ [ -123.281543, 44.566486 ], [ -123.281544, 44.56636 ], [ -123.281041, 44.566359 ], [ -123.281041, 44.566485 ], [ -123.281543, 44.566486 ] ] ]

Coordinates for a polygon location will be a 3 dimensional array of coordinate pairs, where index [0] of the 3rd level of the array will be longitude and index [1] will be latitude. The 2nd level of the array represents an array of coordinate pairs otherwise known as a ring. The 1st level of the array represents an array of rings. Each ring represents a set of coordinate pairs that, if connected to each other in order, would draw a shape of the building. As a rule of GeoJson, the first and last coordinate pairs in a ring must be identical. The example of Hovland Hall shows that it has five coordinate pairs (with the first and last being identical), which make up one ring within one polygon.

Some buildings on campus have multiple rings (multiple arrays of coordinate pairs). A polygon with multiple rings represents buildings with holes in them, like Cordley Hall. In an array of rings, the first ring represents the exterior structure of a building while any additional rings are holes (interior rings). Moreover, GeoJson specifies the wrap direction of exterior and interior rings. Wrap direction is the direction that a ring is drawn when laying out each coordinate pair on a map in order. The wrap direction of exterior rings is counterclockwise while interior rings are wrapped clockwise. However, it’s worth noting that services like the Google Maps Polygon API only care that exterior and interior rings have opposite wrap direction.

Donut with labels showing the difference between an exterior and interior ring.
Buildings with holes in them are like donuts, where the interior ring represents the hole in the middle. Image Source.
Donut with two holes representing a polygon with two interior rings.
Buildings can have multiple interior rings which represent multiple holes. Image Source.

Since multipolygon locations are locations with multiple structures, their coordinates array adds another dimension to represent an array of polygons. All the same rules apply, except the coordinates array for a multipolygon will be 4 dimensional.

Do you have any ideas for data to add to the locations API? Contact us to share your ideas or visit our developer portal to register an application to try using the locations API:

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