Fore Abbey Cloisters

Inch by Inch Stone by Stone

Trying to build a virtual stone wall

In taking on Fore Abbey as a 3D visual image project, we always imagined that there would be some hard labour involved. The Abbey was a vast space, added to and amended through the centuries as it grew from its original 7th Century wooden structure through to the fortified stone towers and vaulted arches of its high point in the 13th Century. But when we decided to rescale our efforts and work solely on the cloisters we thought it might be a simple task.

There are several columns and arches still standing as part of the cloisters on the site – with free access to the site I took a lot of photographs to use as visual guides and we consulted the plans that had been drawn by OPW architect H.G Leask for a pamphlet in the 1930’s.

By comparing the plan and the photograph we struck on a plan to create multiple cylinders on top of the plan but to begin to create the cylinders using the measurements from my trips to the site as a starting scale. In this way we believed we would find an acceptable level of accuracy in the construction, mindful that although our brief was to create a visualisation for a television documentary, we still wanted to stay as close to the real measures as possible.

Our first attempts led to a very confused looking series of shapes that became far to complicated when we tried to extrude them to height. We had measured the primary rectangular base and constructed a 1inch box, we then separately constructed what we hoped would be the next three beveled bases that sit on the rectangular base. The measures from the site were accurate but not professionally done, when I measured a beveled edge I did not have the architectural or archeological nous to produce a proper diagram of my figures and consequently there was a confusion in the construction.

Nevertheless we brought the cylinders to a point and then tried to combine them into one element using the boolean union tool. In this we were somewhat successful but it took far to long to create our basic bases and somewhat disheartened we turned towards the column themselves as they seemed like a simpler proposition and offered the chance to create a structure that would reward our hours of labour with a solid piece of geometry.

During the work, we discussed how we might incorporate the cloister model into a documentary style piece on the Abbey. We talked about shooting some more videos on the site and using these, allied with some pre-existing drone footage we could license, to incorporate our construction. As we talked we decided to look at two possible video integrations, one was to overlay the cloisters into the drone footage, the other was to license the plan model from Leask’s drawings, or to create our own and add the cloister model on top using a simple crop or transparency option to reveal the 3d Image.

Returning to the model as it stood, we struggled to create a low polygon unit out of our cylindrical assembly. We found the align tool and moved and measure our way to a series of objects that we could work with, but found that we were, once again, hours behind our hoped for schedule and parked the model where it was – hoping to reconvene having done more research into the areas of the software that were taking us so long to overcome.

I suggested I might try and model some of the stone wall upon which the cloister columns stand and that we would try and talk to others with more knowledge of the software or the 3D visual field in order to find simpler ways to progress the project.

As ever I am amazed at how difficult it is to find the right way to start into a model even with multiple tutorials to follow on the web. The old Irish line ‘well I wouldn’t start from here’ comes to the Fore far too often!

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