Sunday, December 4, 2022


 There are dozens of these I could post. Doors from my trip to Volterra in 2018.

I fully intended to group my Volterra door photos into categories and to apply my modular Revit families system to the task of building up a comprehensive library.

Maybe I should set my sights a little lower and just tackle a few of these to the first order of approximation, as an exercise that could be completed in one weekend.



January 2020 as it appears in my Samsung gallery time line.

I was heavily invested in the Notre Dame Revit model although most of my collaborators were catching up on other commitments. The presentations at Autodesk University were behind us and the global covid panic yet to come.

One of the pleasures of exploring an ancient building with the BIM pencil is the gradual realisation of how it has changed over time. The enlargement of the windows of the nave is a case in point.

The sloping roof over the triforium was dropped down to almost flat, allowing the the sills of the clerestory windows to be lowered, so light could flood in above the heads of the congregation.

But the end bays were not enlarged, I'm guessing for reasons of structural stability. The step in level that resulted, with its odd little sloping row of windows, puzzled me greatly at first.

To be clear, our work had no connection to the Revit model made for the restoration of the building. We had a very different purpose, not providing construction documents but simply pursuing knowledge for its own sake through a kind of hands-on research.

Purely voluntary. We received no sponsorship. Just a bunch of enthusiasts coalescing around an idea for about a year. Working in the cloud, connected by a Slack group.

Thanks to everyone who chipped in.



Smartphone time line. Almost 4 years ago.

I was quite proud of these little sketches of my grandsons, done on Samsung Note. Felt like I was finding a bit of a personal style.

The curved skylight was helping another colleague out at work, and the discussion group some random panel at a local event.

At weekends I was soldiering away on the Bank of England, mostly on my own. These spaces along the west edge of Garden Court were originally designed by Taylor, who preceded Soane. I have modelled them as modified by Sir John.

How I loved the challenge of piecing those spaces together, making educated guesses, based on partial information.



A few days ago I posted pictures of doors taken in 2018 when I participated in the Volterra-Detroit Foundation reality capture workshop.

Now, following on from the work I did converting four doors in Porto to Revit families, I'm taking a crack at the Volterra doors in a similar vein. Created two today at a basic level of detail.


Building on yesterday's efforts. I now have a third nested element inside the door family. "Opening" added to the existing "Frame" and "Doorset"

This facilitates variations in the jamb profile of the wall: Masonry rebates, splayed inner reveal, arches in a different material, etc

This can be updated independently of the design of doors panels & framing (double, single, folding, 2 panels, 4 panels, glazed fanlight etc.

Early days, and I've attempted these situations before, but I'm going for a more systematic treatment this time allowing for mix & match of the 3 basic elements.


Second sheet of Volterra Doors.

Two new designs of wall panel. Two new designs of wall opening with stone trim. These families need a bit of tidying up but that will have to wait for next weekend. Significant progress made.

And much learning learned 😁


A holiday in UK at the height of project Notre Dame. Precious moments with my grandsons, my children, my daughter in law.

Three old village churches in Rural Hampshire, a reminder of times gone by. Good to see that they are still in use. I'm a product of the modern world but a great believer in continuity. We gain nothing by treating the past with disdain.

During that visit I managed to meet up with several people who have pursued skilled trades, keeping alive a connection to the builders of grand cathedrals and humble village churches alike.

Kudos to Karl Claydon and others who were so generous with their time and accumulated knowledge. I spent my twenties working with my hands, an experience I will never regret.

My fellow "knowledge workers" are too busy obsessing about the pros and cons of "remote work" In reality sitting in an office all day is already utterly remote from the physical work that brought meaning to the lives of the generations before us.

I hope the future will restore apprentice systems to the prominence they deserve and return physical labour to the core of our being.


Sunday, November 27, 2022


Thanks to the guys in Volterra, currently enjoying the reality capture workshop. There are several of us out here, wishing we could have joined and appreciating the posts you are sharing.

I was there in 2018 and particularly interested in the construction details that had evolved in the local vernacular. Chimneys sprout across the rooftops, some for fireplaces some for woodstoves.

Compared to England there is great concern to protect the opening from rainfall. Is this just a quirk? Perhaps it reflects the number of days in the year when fires actually burn. A strong upward draft will deflect rain as well as any physical barrier, I suspect.



Four windows from Volterra, snapped in 2018.

The double arch motif is common in Tuscany and often enough there are rectangular wooden frames "hiding" behind the stone outer layer.

That tradition goes back to the medieval era and often enough uses pointed arches. The heavy rusticated surrounds are firmly post Renaissance though. Shades of the heavy Mannerism of Giulio Romano.

And then there is the simplicity of a running moulding topped by a pediment. The "temple front" motif which harks back to the Etruscans and the Greeks.

Can't help thinking we lost something along the way to modernity, for all its many benefits.




Second pass on the fourth panel this morning. I guess I am going in reverse order, this time around. Actually I just chose the one I was least happy with for further development.

Paint brush on canvas is a great way to start my weekend.


Window shutters snapped in Volterra in 2018. There is a deceptive commonality to this tradition which masks the underlying complexity and variation.

Some shutters are side-hung and open out, with a top-hung portion, nested within each of the two main shutters. This enables great flexibility in control of light and ventilation depending on the time of day and season of the year. Privacy and security are also factors of course.

A modern "rethink" has introduced sliding shutters into the mix. These can be combined with external metal bars in situation where the side hung style would clash.

But there is also a tradition of inward opening shutters, often nested within the glazed opening sashes. I am guessing that these were sometimes installed without glass, when that material was a luxury item.

In that case the internal shutters would be the only protection against rain. Hence the blank shutters in place of the louvred type


Ground floor windows in Volterra often boast a security grille. There are many variations.

One of my favourite details is when the blacksmith forms a thickening of the vertical bars, allowing an eye to be formed, through which the horizontals can be threaded.

Looking at this collection now, I think I prefer the simpler rectangular grids to the more elaborate patterns which tend to detract from the window itself.



There is an extensive underground drainage system in Volterra, collecting run-off from the streets and channeling it to storage cisterns. At the city gates there are public water troughs, still in evidence.

I'm sure this was critical infrastructure for an ancient hilltop city. The access points (rodding ways?) Fascinated me when I first noticed them in 2018. You can also find these in Florence if you keep your eyes open.

Small circular stone lids, set in stone frames. I would love to see the traditional method for opening these up.

Was there a filtration system for cleaning the runoff? Was the water not for human consumption? Maybe they boiled the drinking water?

I always have more questions than answers.



Saturday, November 26, 2022



Four churches in Mutare. Pics from 2003. Don't know why I didn't think of including these in my Revit churches series before, would make an interesting little group.

I hope I get to see Mutare again one day. Full of nostalgia for my previous trips, spread across a 23 year residence in Zimbabwe. Becoming a citizen, raising a family, watching things go wrong. Hyperinflation can only really be understood through first hand experience.

I clung onto that citizenship and the dream of retiring to sit under my mango tree. Sometimes you just have to let go of your dreams and accept the reality of what life has thrown your way.

I'm pretty sure that people are still worshiping in those churches, which is more than can be said for many in Europe. Vivid memories of driving past open air services under trees in Zimbabwe. Congregations dressed in white.


Three eaves and one verge. Two examples of extended timber rafters, and two variations on brick corbels.

The timber rafter extensions seem to have over - fussy profiles... until you realise it's just the same thing repeated two or three times. They are made up from smaller sections, bound together with metal straps. Each one has the same shaped end with slots for the straps to sit in.

The sections slide past each other like the telescopic legs of a tripod. I should do Revit versions of these, just to check out my assumptions.

Four years on and I'm still finding fresh insights and inspiration in the roofs of Volterra.



September 2018, and we were deep into Notre Dame. Starting to tell a story in pictures and words based on our voyage of discovery. That was a great little team. We all had slightly different motivations, but it didn't seem to matter.

Just take on a task and enjoy the conversation along the way. Lots of little geometry puzzles, and a tricky decision over how much "straightening up" to do.

For me, BIM is not restricted to the commercial realm, it's not all ROI and meeting deadlines. I draw to understand the world, to explore the nature of human culture as it has evolved over the centuries.

BIM as an artistic endeavour, comparable to music or painting. Not a dry and dusty business of protocols and compliance, but a joyful adventure. Fresh as the day I first held a pencil, or fired up a computer.

February 2019 was an unusual month for me. The only time I have spent a night in hospital. First ever "surgical procedure"... The indignity of wearing a catheter for several weeks.
Extra time with my grandsons was a bonus. I cherish every moment with those two. Jack decided to make paper place mats with images of food on a plate.

We visited a village called Upton Grey which lies on an old Roman road and decided to host a thunder storm.

This thin slab of glass that moves around with me has a timeline of my life "inside°, a living breathing scroll that extends my feeble, fallible memory. Forty years ago I carried a pocket notebook. Similar but different.

The arrow of time.

Snapshot from my cloud drive. These are screenshots taken while I was trying to understand the cap and pan roof system that I had seen in Volterra.

I was using my BIM pencil of course, "sketching in Revit" just to understand the geometry and how the tiles fit together, how they accommodate irregularities.

I'm sure I would have learned more by laying out real tiles on a real roof. Even more by spending a day in a tile factory. But piecing things together by trial and error with digital tools that I have been using daily for 15 years now is a pretty good way to learn.




Second pass on the fourth panel this morning. I guess I am going in reverse order, this time around. Actually I just chose the one I was least happy with for further development.

Paint brush on canvas is a great way to start my weekend.