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.

IMG_2703

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.