Digital Past 2017

This week Nick presented at Digital Past 2017 in Newport, Wales. The paper focussed on the digital surveying and subsequent analysis of the fourteenth century medieval vaults  in the chancel and north transept of Nantwich St Mary’s Church, Cheshire. This produced two distinct discussions; the first investigating the chancel, which offered an opportunity to hypothesise the medieval design process of the in-situ vaults using reverse engineering. The second, the north transept, contains an incomplete (or possibly destroyed) vault and therefore a series of simulations were developed to postulate the design process, and how the vaults may have looked if completed. 3D digital models of the postulated designs for the north transept can be found on the Nantwich vaults page.

The conference presented numerous exciting and innovative digital heritage projects in Wales and beyond, such as Nick Hannon’s investigations into the Antonine Wall, as well as the Welsh Chapels project which is using games engines as a way of educating the public about heritage.

eCAADe 2016 – Tracing the Past presentation

At eCAADe 2016 (Education and research in Computer Aided Architectural Design in Europe) in Oulu, Finland, Nick presented a paper co-authored with Alex and JR discussing the advantages of different digital surveying methods for the project. The paper can be found via CUMINCAD here.

A contextualised digital heritage workshop led by Danilo Di Mascio was also organised, with help from Anetta Kepczynska-Walczak and myself, the details of which can be found here. We were very grateful for the support given by the University of Oulu, and were encouraged by the discussions held with participants, which provided an enjoyable couple of days leading up to the main conference. We hope to run the workshop again at eCAADe 2017 in Rome!

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ROBERT WILLIS SYMPOSIUM – 16-17 SEPTEMBER 2016

Tracing the Past was inspired by the work of Robert Willis (1800-1875), a famous Cambridge polymath. He was Jacksonian Professor of Natural and Experimental Philosophy and taught engineering in the early years of that subject.

Willis’s research and teaching was spread over a wide range of
subjects. Our particular interest is in his pioneering study of medieval vaulting, presented as a lecture to the Royal Institute of British Architects in 1841 and published in the first volume of their Proceedings in 1842. Willis proposed a number of hypotheses about the design of medieval vaults which he hoped contemporary architects would be able to test. However the difficulties of gathering suitable data were huge and it’s only now, with the introduction of laser scanning that his ideas can be more fully explored, through projects such as ours.

On 16-17 September 2016, both Nick and Alex will be giving papers in the Robert Willis: Technology, Science and Architecture symposium taking place at Willis’s own college, Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge. Alex will be speaking on Willis’s networks of knowledge and Nick will be presenting a digital update of Willis’s 1842 paper, for which the digital content can be found here. Other speakers will also be discussing Willis’s work on vaults, including Prof Santiago Huerta, Javier Giron, Martin Bressani (speaking on Willis and Viollet-le-Duc) and Antonio Becchi. The full programme is available here: willis-program-a4

The Symposium website includes a digital library of Willis’s publications, making it an incredibly useful resource for those sharing his interests. The Symposium proceedings will be published – further details available soon.

 

 

 

We’re off to Ely!

Ely Cathedral Presbytery
Ely Cathedral Presbytery

We already reported that the Society of Antiquaries of London have very generously funded a trip to Ely Cathedral, where we shall be scanning the vaults in the Presbytery, the Lady Chapel, the Octagon and Prior Crauden’s Chapel. We’ve now got permission from the Cathedral authorities to go ahead and we’ll be at the Cathedral on 13-14 September. As well as laser scanning, we’re going to be experimenting with total station.

The Lady Chapel was started in 1321 but attention moved when the crossing collapsed, in 1322, and the whole area had to be rebuilt. We know the vaults of the Presbytery were complete by 1337, when there were payments for painting them. Thus the work is exactly the same date as the vaults at Wells.

So far we’ve only scanned vaults in the west of England, so this will be our first opportunity to scan vaults in East Anglia, where design principles and construction methods might be very different. The Ely designs are associated with William Hurley, the King’s master carpenter, who designed the wooden vaults of the Octagon and William Ramsey, later the chief surveyor of the King’s works in the Tower of London and other castles south of the Trent, to whom the later parts of the design have been attributed on stylistic grounds.  The Ramsey family of masons were closely associated with the Royal Works and with East Anglian architecture, including the cloister of Norwich Cathedral, which also has lierne vaults showing a variety of rib curvatures, as in the aisles of Wells.

The vaults of Prior Crauden’s Chapel are of interest to us because they are not medieval but were reconstructed by Robert Willis in the 1840s. They were thus an opportunity for him to put into practice the ideas he had explored in his 1841 lecture ‘On the Vaults of the Middle Ages’.

 

 

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MODELLING MEDIEVAL VAULTS SYMPOSIUM – ABSTRACTS AND PROGRAMME

The final programme for the modelling medieval vaults symposium at the University of Liverpool in London on Thursday 14th July is now available here.

A list of the presentation abstracts are available via the following link.

If you are yet to book your place for the symposium, please do this through Eventbrite.

We are very much looking forward to seeing you there!

Pazirik Informatics Ltd Website

We are delighted that Balázs Szakonyi will present research investigating the role of horizontal ribs in late Gothic vault construction in Hungary as part of the Modelling Medieval Vaults symposium alongside Gergely Buzás and Balázs Szőke.

At the Modelling Medieval Vaults symposium Buzás Gergely, Balázs Szakonyi and Balázs Szőke will present research investigating a typical vault type that is wide spread in Central Europe on behalf of Pazirik Informatics Ltd.

Besides the vaults still standing in our time, we possess carved stones from numerous perished vaults thanks to archaeological excavations. Several elements from former vaults came to surface which show typical characteristics of these vault types. One of the most important finds from this category came to light during Gergely Buzás’s excavations of 2010 in Pécs. We have created digital scan surveys of these carved stones in the framework of the SzimeAr3D project. The theoretical reconstruction and CAD model of the vault has been created by Balázs Szőke. The lecture will be presented with Balázs Szakonyi translator and 3D graphic artist. One of our goals is to conciliate the Hungarian technical terms with their German and English obverses. The publications and image collections can be inspected on our webpage with a short English commentary.

More information regarding Pazirik can be found on their website. We look forward to hearing more at the symposium.

Bauer Lauterbach Website

As part of the upcoming Modelling Medieval Vaults symposium at the University of Liverpool in London, Thomas Bauer and Jörg Lauterbach will be presenting their investigations of Benedikt Ried’s deconstructive vaults at Prague Castle with Norbert Nußbaum.

Thomas and Jörg have a website of their work, where they specialise in stone historical reconstructions. The site contains a link showing 360 ° panoramas of timber reconstructions of the winding rib vaulted ceiling of the chapel in the Royal Palace of Dresden. The panoramas can be explored online, where you can rotate and zoom to investigate them further.

We are very much looking forward to hearing more about Thomas, Jörg and Norbert’s research at the symposium in July.

Modelling Medieval Vaults Symposium – booking now open

Modelling Medieval Vaults symposium (UoL in London, 14 July 2016, 9:30am—5:00pm)

The University of Liverpool in London, Finsbury Square—Seminar Room 4

Organised by Dr Alex Buchanan and Dr Nick Webb

Tickets can be booked through Eventbrite

Keynote speakers

Professor Santiago Huerta – Technical University of Madrid

Professor Norbert Nußbaum – University of Cologne, with Thomas Bauer and Jörg Lauterbach – Architects and engineers for historic reconstructions, Dresden

Assistant Professor Benjamin Ibarra Sevilla – The University of Texas at Austin

Digital processes

Speakers include:

Dr Danilo Di Mascio – Northumbria University

Dr Nick Webb – University of Liverpool

Dr Rosana Guerra and Dr Paula Fuentes – Technical University of Madrid

Weiyi Pei and Lui Tam – KU Leuven

New questions in 14th-century vaulting

Speakers include:

Dr Alex Buchanan – University of Liverpool

Andrew Budge – Birkbeck College, University of London

The use of digital surveying and analysis techniques, such as laser scanning, photogrammetry, 3D reconstructions or reverse engineering offers the opportunity to re-examine historic works of architecture.

Digital analysis has enabled new research into design processes, construction methods, structural engineering, building archaeology and relationships between buildings. Recent research on Continental European and Central American architecture has established the significance of these techniques, however, as yet there has been little exploitation of digital technologies in the context of medieval architecture in the British Isles. This is despite international recognition of the importance of thirteenth and fourteenth-century English vault design to the history of Gothic architecture in an international context.

The aims of the present symposium are to present new research in this emerging field in order to establish appropriate methodologies using digital tools and identify significant questions for future research in the area.

The symposium will be relevant to anyone with an interest in:

  • Medieval architecture
  • Three-dimensional digital methodologies
  • Digital techniques used for the analysis of historic works of architecture

Symposium cost: £40 for attendees and £25 for students/speakers. Free for student attendees.

Scanning at Ottery St Mary

For the final day of our visit to Devon we travelled from Exeter to Ottery St Mary Church to scan the vaults there.
Ottery St Mary was built by Bishop Grandisson of Exeter, whose tomb chapel in the West Front of Exeter Cathedral we visited two days earlier. He established Ottery as a college of priests in 1337 and the church is correspondingly impressive, a miniature cathedral on a similar plan to Exeter, with vaults clearly modelled on the high vault of the choir at Wells Cathedral. It is therefore widely assumed that Grandisson worked with the designer responsible for the Exeter West Front, William Joy, and possibly also Thomas of Witney, also employed at Exeter, claims we hope our research may help to substantiate.
Our research will also provide data for investigating the international transmission of design ideas. Ottery’s international significance has already been mentioned in an earlier blog post (link). Like Wells (another building associated with both Witney and Joy), it transforms Gothic architecture in ways picked up by Peter Parler, the designer of Prague Cathedral and other late Gothic architects. Twelfth- and thirteenth-century Gothic churches are generally designed in modular form, as a sequence of identical bays consisting of an arcade arch, with a window above and, in grander churches, a middle story in between. Vaults likewise may be analysed as bays, divided one from the next by a transverse rib and intersected by diagonals which criss-cross  the bay, their junction marked by a boss. The high vault of Wells Cathedral is of international significance as the earliest ‘net’ vault, with diagonal ribs extending across more than one bay. The vault design also includes ‘cusping’, subsidiary mouldings added to the ribs, a design concept originating in window tracery. Ottery follows this model, with the additional development that the diagonals curve in three dimensions rather than two, again like the flowing lines of window tracery. The cusping stands proud of the surface of the vault, adding to the visual conceit that the ribs form a net thrown over the surface of the vault rather than directly relating to its geometry. The church also has vaults with ribs of multiple curvatures, domical vaults and a sixteenth-century fan vault with hanging pendants, making it a very rich resource for our research.
Our trip to Ottery St Mary was funded by the Paul Mellon Centre.

Scanning at Exeter Cathedral

On Wednesday 30th March we travelled to Devon to collect more survey data from two sites; Exeter Cathedral and Ottery St Mary Church. We spent two days at Exeter and will spend a final day at Ottery.

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Surprisingly, we were joined by a team at Exeter Cathedral who were also there to create a model of it. Whereas we were using digital scanning techniques to produce a highly accurate model of the vaults at Exeter, they were using Lego to create a scale model within the cathedral. You can follow their progress here. We were able to scan the uninterrupted length of high vaults along the nave and choir, the central porch of the screen facade, the crossing, the miniature vaults in the pulpitum and those of the sedilia. These miniature vaults are particularly interesting to us, being documented designs by Thomas of Witney, a mason who also worked at Wells Cathedral, a site we’ve already scanned. At both Exeter and Wells, Witney experimented with the use of liernes, additional decorative ribs, of which Exeter’s are some of the earliest surviving examples. With help from the cathedral archaeologist, John Allan, we were able to identify additional sites to survey, such as the site of the former North walk of the cloister, which was situated between the external buttressing to the south of the nave.

The trip to Exeter was funded by the University of Liverpool’s Interdisciplinary Network Fund.

A collaborative research project using digital techniques to investigate medieval vault design in the British Isles.