Fore Abbey Cloisters

Fore Abbey Cloisters

On taking more first steps (backwards) and realising the difference between plan and possibility 

When we began looking at Fore Abbey as a 3D visual image project, we suspected that it would be a tricky task. To master the 3Ds Max interface over the course of a module is in and of itself a challenge but I little suspected how many false steps there would be in the process.

We began our efforts by importing, with great difficulty a plan of the Abbey, from H.G Leask’s visual renderings from the 1930’s. The difficulties came from using a new version of 3Ds Max and running it via Parallels on a Mac. This meant that some of the labelling of Viewports was different to the labelling we had learnt in class and by running it via the Mac there was always a concern that not seeing an object in a scene was a glitch between the OS and the software.

After some frustrations we imported a Plan of the Abbey and sized it to the correct proportions – being now convinced of the veracity of the image, we took it as a good guide to work from.

Our first attempts at drawing a spline led to far too many vertices as we traced each bump in the plan far too closely. When we closed the spline and began to work with it as an editable poly it became clear that too many vertices on top of each other caused confusion to ourselves and the software!

We redrew the spline several times and eventually extruded a wall shape across the plan of the Abbey and considered it a good start. On reflection however we realised that the number of hours it had taken us to achieve this basic image was not a positive indicator. Following in class discussion we agreed that to try and revisualise the cloister area was a far more realistic proposition and with that in mind I headed back to Fore Abbey with a measuring tape, some string and my two daughters in tow.

The promise of crisps in the small pub nearby was the bargain struck to allow me to work and I began measuring arches, angles, extrusions on the pillars and any other parts of the cloister that I thought would allow for a more accurate model.

With the rain falling on Fore, I packed away my measuring tape and slightly soaked copy book, but not before I reflected again on how little I knew about some of the art and science behind accurately recording a physical site.

 I enjoyed scribbling in my notebook but I felt like I was only scraping the surface and needed to be far more meticulous in what I measured and how I recorded it, but for the time being it had to suffice.


The next day in Maynooth we set to again and began to draw another spline, but this time only over the cloister plan. 


We extruded to the height, and width I had measured and then inspected the photos I had taken to see if we could figure a good way to model the stones into the wall. Unfortunately temptation took hold and we started to attempt to create the pillar bases for the cloister, figuring these would look good and represent progress. Several hours and many, many attempts later we parked a model that had thousands of polygons and was in danger of crashing the software. We left the digital humanities lab slightly unsure of our next move, but satisfied that we were making some progress as our basic wall structure – an extruded spline – was still standing!

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