Sunday, July 22, 2018


I have just uploaded my first post to the Volterra-Detroit Foundation Blog.  You can find it here.

There is quite a big overlap with my last two posts here, but also a slightly different take on the topic and a couple of new images.

While I'm at it I may as well share my latest work with Autodesk sketchbook.  

This one was done on my phone and for some reason reminds me of the work of Modigliani.  Difficult to say why, probably the stylisation and use of black.  He came from Tuscany, was famously wild (even for an artist of the period) and specialised in female nudes.  But this deals with layers receding into the distance: the hills in the distance echoing the tumbling rhythm of tiled roofs.  Chimneys in Volterra seem to indicate wood stoves, a slightly different role from brick chimney breasts that feature so prominently in the traditional housing forms of Northern Europe.

The tiled roofs are based on a two par system: flat pan with half round cappings.  Both elements are tapered of course so that they can overlap in courses.  It's a very ancient system.  Greek Temples seem to have used a very similar arrangement.  I modelled it quickly in Revit to gain a better understanding.

In practice the system is much more subtle than that.  You can use the half-round pieces "upside down" to tighten up the gauge, or reverse the pan to widen it.  This allows local builders to cover irregular shapes and twisted surfaces.  The slopes are usually quite shallow and the tiles are not nailed to the timbers below.  It's common to see stones on the roof to hold end tiles in place during windy weather.  

My next sketch captures the informality of one of the many shared domestic courtyards in Volterra.  It's something of a study in diagonals and an abstract composition in colour and texture.  At one level, the architecture here is a series of random accidents, an unthinking jumble.  But somehow there is a romanticism, an unfailing sense of the picturesque.  Is this just in the eye of the beholder?  Why does exposed plumbing and dangling electric wiring sometimes seem to be an eyesore but in other contexts a picturesque frivolity?

I want to close with another little Revit study of local construction techniques.  It shows the use of thin flat bricks for ceiling vaults and for flooring, as well as for walls.  The floors use closely spaced hardwood joists carrying two layers of bricks at 45 degrees to each other.  This reconstruction is based partly on observation and partly on educated guesswork.  

I'm finding the combination of hand sketching and Revit modelling to be a very productive way of sifting through the data I collected in Italy.  I'm calling it data, but I mean everything from personal memories to point clouds: lots of photos, screenshots from web research … the material is diverse and so are the methods for engaging with it.

That's all for now.

1 comment:

I've been getting a lot of spam so had to tighten up comments permissions. Sorry for any inconvenience. I do like to hear from real people