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Hi there, a newbie question here (I have searched this forum and the beginner's guide, but couldn't find an answer)

When adding amenities (e.g. pubs, restaurants, grocery stores), which of the following practices should I be following?

  1. Just add a single node placed approximately on the centre of the amenity, tagged with the correct tag - don't bother mapping the actual shape of the building.
  2. Create a closed way representing the area of the building, and tag this with the tag instead?

One of the reasons I ask is that (in Potlatch2) there are some tags (e.g. those under the Food and Drink section) that only get shown for nodes, and not for ways. e.g. when I tried to create a Fish and Chip shop, I could tag it as such as a single node, but when I instead tried to create it as a way, I didn't get the "Food and Drink" options appearing in the simple properties menu list. Is that a limitation of Potlatch, or is that trying to discourage people from creating polygons for such features, and mapping them only as single nodes instead?

I'd rather map the true shape of buildings, and I was tempted to create a way that is tagged as just a generic "building", and then create a node inside the building that is tagged with, e.g. Fish&Chips, but that just seems wrong. Or, do I have to use the advanced tab in such cases and set amenity=restaurant, cuisine=fish_and_chips manually (which it seems impossible to do for a way using the simple interface).

Thanks for any help.

asked 15 Mar '11, 19:02

tanoshimi's gravatar image

accept rate: 0%

edited 02 May '15, 01:25

aseerel4c26's gravatar image

aseerel4c26 ♦

There is no canonical way of doing this. It depends on factors such as the availability of aerial imagery, the desire of the mapper for accuracy and/or completeness, available time, and significance of the POI.

However, there is a fairly typical route of increasing refinement:

  1. Add the POI as a node without buildings.
  2. Draw buildings separately
  3. Move the tags from the POI node onto the appropriate building.

In some cases step 3) is impracticable because the building may be shared by several different POIs. The advantage of following this sequence is that it is quicker to create and tag consistently a set of POIs (say all shops and restaurants along a street). Often the initial location may be slightly inaccurate so only once buildings have been drawn can the POI placement be refined. Keeping the steps separate helps in treating data consistently: get all the POIs mapped, finish the buildings and then bring them together. AFAIK Potlatch 2 does not support a means of copying tags from a node to a way, so I would use JOSM for this latter step.

Mapping buildings singly tends to make map renders look very incomplete, so I try to either map only significant isolated buildings (e.g., large supermarkets), consistently represent a given class of buildings (schools, hospitals), map only POIs, or map buildings and POIs together.

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answered 15 Mar '11, 19:28

SK53's gravatar image

SK53 ♦
accept rate: 22%


In regards to one building sharing multiple POIs, one attractive possibility is to create building=entrance nodes on the border of the building for each of the POIs. This gets messy if there are multiple levels, but works nicely for single level buildings, and has the advantage of pinpointing the exact door/entrance to use for a given POI.

(15 Mar '11, 20:36) JoshD

if you convert a node to a polygon it is nice to merge the node into one of the nodes of the polygon, because this will keep the history of this object, rather then simply deleting it. Generally mapping buildings / shops as polygons is better then adding POIs as nodes, as it conveys information about the size (and therefor also indications on the importance) of the area.

(18 Mar '11, 10:39) dieterdreist

Convert nodes to polygons by holding shift, when the node is selected, and click.

(11 Jan '12, 21:14) TheOddOne2

… (continuing TheOddONe2:) in the editor Potlatch 2.

(02 May '15, 01:24) aseerel4c26 ♦

@SK53, following your answer, do you mean that actually the "best practice" is to tag the whole building with amenity tags? Because the result of your third step is a whole tagged building.

(04 Nov '17, 07:52) Sergey Karavay

Things develop with time and this is a 6 year old+ answer. At the time we had hardly any buildings in OSM, the number of POIs and details of them was low etc etc etc.

(04 Nov '17, 13:42) SimonPoole ♦

@SomeoneElse but has the answer changed?

(04 Nov '17, 15:09) Sergey Karavay

@Sergey Karavay I certainly still map this way, but now because I may use a phone to collect data in the field and I'm not so brilliant at drawing ways in Vespucci. I also find data capture is much quicker if I just add nodes. In the meantime adding shop information on the main entrance has also become pretty popular: this works better for routers (and is particularly important for blind people). There will always be shops which can only be represented by a node (in malls, in markets etc) because it's difficult to collect data on areas.

(04 Nov '17, 21:49) SK53 ♦
showing 5 of 8 show 3 more comments

If you have enough information to map the building, do so. It the only thing in the building is the restaurant, then tag the building way as amenity=restaurant. If it is cumbersome to do so using Potlatch2, then report it on

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answered 15 Mar '11, 19:29

petschge's gravatar image

accept rate: 21%

I was experimenting about this and I think I just succeeded about tagging a building and a node separately to show two entities occupying the same location. My problem was that the embassy of Brazil in Santiago, Chile, occupies a mansion that is officially a national monument (Errázuriz palace) thus belonging to the Chilean State (government) –an attraction by its own right. I wanted to add the building and the embassy as two separate things. I drew the building and tagged it as Palacio Errázuriz and then I created a node that I tagged as amenity=embassy, name=Embajada de Brasil, country=BR in the advanced options and moved it to the desired position (about where the main door to the embassy would be). It seems that I got what I wanted by what I see in the rendering. Would this be an acceptable procedure? Is the result acceptable by OSM standards?


I forgot to include the Changeset to facilitate the location of my work: 8097846. Sorry.

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answered 10 May '11, 00:45

OttoPilot's gravatar image

accept rate: 0%

edited 24 May '13, 00:23

aseerel4c26's gravatar image

aseerel4c26 ♦

Actually, this is just what is generally recommended for buildings with multiple "functions". See e.g. how-to-tag-a-multi-function-facility

(11 May '11, 07:15) sleske

I am doing both. First, I mark the outline of the building and tag is as a store. Then, I place a point with the store name and profile. Sometimes there are many stores in one building; I add all of them then.

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answered 10 May '11, 17:57

haael's gravatar image

accept rate: 0%


This is only valid for buildings which contain multiple stores. Never add a single feature twice.

(20 Apr '14, 18:32) scai ♦

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question asked: 15 Mar '11, 19:02

question was seen: 18,050 times

last updated: 04 Nov '17, 21:49

NOTICE: is no longer in use from 1st March 2024. Please use the OpenStreetMap Community Forum