Monday, February 26, 2018



Soane's Bank of England is familiar territory to me by now.  It's been a while since I discovered a drawing for a new space that I hadn't noticed before.  Used to be something that happened regularly, but after 2 1/2 years I have come to know both the building and the drawings archive pretty well.  So I got a bit of a thrill when I realised what this drawing was really about.

I had assumed it was an early study for the Discount Office, which is strange because it clearly says that it is the lobby leading to that office.  As soon as the penny drops it relates very clearly to a space on the floor plan (although the door to the Silver Room is puzzling).  I'm quite excited, because it's an interesting space, and fills out the sequence of rooms that I have been working on recently. 

The treatment is very similar to the waiting room corridor, with rusticated walls and Ionic columns, plus yet another skylight, above a vaulted ceiling.  There is a second drawing with orthographic views. I'm looking forward to developing this, maybe next weekend.

Here is a model view of the lobby, showing the route from the Long Passage leading to the Discount Office entrance door.  The new skylight position is marked by an asterisk, and the large arched window into the Discount Office is awaiting glass and framing.

I started on the Discount Office itself towards the end of this weekend: mostly developing the coffered ceilings.  I roughed out the space at least a year ago, lots of arches and Soane's usual division of the space into a central hall with side and end aisles.

More discoveries this weekend.  For some time now, the linked models have not been showing up in the A360 viewer.  I decided to try removing them and re-inserting; a successful strategy in the end. 

Along the way I thought I should record the positions of the links using shared coordinates before removing them.  Turns out that you can't "Publish" coordinates in A360.  I guess it has something to do with the models not residing locally so more chance of corruption when the system tries to write to it.  In my confusion I pressed "reconcile" a few times, thinking this was an equivalent process, but of course it is actually acquiring coordinates from the link.  Essentially True North was reset back to Project North,

This in turn prompted me to look once again at the orientation of True North.  I was looking to display a grid in Google Maps and came across a link to a Caving Society which has done this via the API.  Actually I have a plan view with lots of different maps brought in, some historic. 

Cross-checking these and taking readouts of coordinates from Google Earth at the four corners of the site convinced me that to change the angle between True & Project North from 24.5 to 26 degrees.  Not sure that it matters very much for the work I am doing, but it was an absorbing puzzle.

I ought to mention that the A360 viewer is much improved now that they added edges.  It's quite responsive too, given the size and complexity of this model.  Here's a shot looking from the Residence Court towards Lothbury Court, not a bad place to live if you were the Secretary or Chief Cashier.

The first half of the weekend was more straightforward, but also rewarding.  I was increasing the level of detail on the Governor & Deputy Governor's Rooms.  Don't have time to describe the process right now, but a couple of Enscape images will convey the reults.  Deputy Governor's office is all about subtle division of space to define a "corridor zone" at one end, leaving the main space centred on the fireplace with a circular recess in the ceiling.  Had fun with the decorative frieze at the junction of wall and ceiling.

The Governor's Room is a blend between Taylor & Soane.  I had to increase the pitch of the groin vault to match archive drawings, then it was mostly down to carefully adjusting the wall panels ... plus a bit of fun with a repeating dentil family topping off the corner recesses.  I think Soane inherited the groin vault and high level windows from Taylor, but the window into the Waiting Room Court is definitely his. I suspect most of the decorative detail is of his devising also, but it's hard to be sure.

LINKS to 360 panoramas of these two spaces:

Governor - panorama.enscape3d

Deputy - panorama.enscape3d

The Soane drawings I began with are of course copyright the Soane Museum and downloaded from their online archive which you can access here.


I'm going to try out a suggestion I received recently from Dmitry and summarise the main points arising in this post.  I have set myself a rambling, diary style format for my posts, bordering on "stream-of-consciousness"  I don't want to abandon this, but a summary at the end seems like a good idea.
  1. Always be ready to find something new in old/familiar material
  2. Soane's variations on a theme are a wonder to behold
  3. The BIM360 viewer is much better with the black edges showing
  4. Design Review & Navis could benefit from this IMO
  5. Can't "Publish" shared coordinates in C4R, only "Acquire".  Plan carefully
  6. Would be great to have a couple more collaborators on Project Soane

Sunday, February 18, 2018


Running short of time so I will attempt a quick one.

I've spent a couple more weekends moving from space to space through the Directors Parlours bringing up the layers of detail.  Centre Hall is what its name implies, the space that links together the rooms where all the major decisions were made: Governor's Office, Deputy Governor, Court Room, Committee Room.  Lots of interesting Family Editor challenges.  The coffered arch with ceiling roses is one I'd like to explain in detail when I have the time.

Beyond the Centre Hall is another impressive circulation space, the Rustic Lobby.  Like the Centre Hall, there are coffered arches either side of a lofty central volume.  But instead of a groin vault you get a tower with top lighting.  And of course the walls are rusticated, hence the name.  Working my way through these spaces I get a tremendous feel for the way Soane could ring the changes.  Notice the different treatment of the coffered arch motif.

As you know, I'm not alone in this task.  A couple of active collaborators chipping in at the moment. The next image is one that I shared to Slack to explain some of the available tasks, and how they fit into the scheme of things, the functional arrangement of spaces.  X marks the spot ... an open court with toilet cubicles. 

This whole area is a terrific sequence of spaces, opening up and closing down, letting in light from all kinds of angles, arches, domes, vaults ...  I'm really excited by the way it's starting to shape up now, culmination of two and a half years of dogged effort (off and on)

To say I've learned a lot is a huge understatement.  Modelling challenges, history of capitalism, spatial creativity, Soane's vision of classical abstracted modernity.  Sometimes it's appropriate to use parametric families, formulas, nesting.  Sometimes simple direct modelling does the trick.  Take this groin vault for example.  It's a one off situation: four extrusions, two solid & two void.

That was for the lobby leading in to the Entrance Hall, a space designed by Soane's predecessor, Taylor.  Very easy to spot the difference, much more heavy-handed decoration. (my bias is showing)  You get a glimpse of some of the more elaborate families here, no parametrics really, but a good deal of complexity and nesting.

Still a fair bit of work to do.  The clock and the fireplace are simple placeholders, to be developed further by "others".  There are some tricky door families to add also, two of them matching, with semi-circular fanlights: one a real door, the other blind ... or maybe a cupboard.

This weekend I moved on to the Court Room, also by Taylor and heavily decorated.  The heavy plaster cornices are sweeps, modelled in place.  This is a pretty good example of a situation where modelling in place is the only realistic option.  These days you can do a lot more stuff in a perspective view.  It was my first attempt to edit a sweep profile in perspective though.  Quite impressive.  Can't wait for the long awaited free perspective navigation now (aka "Do Not Crop View")

Much of the weekend has been spent building decorative plaster panels: wall based and ceiling based.  They may look like they are finished, but believe me they are fairly crudely modeled at present.  Lots of scope for collaborators to step in here.

The families are all packaged up in folders on a Box account.  It's an interesting exercise in collaborative work in an educational context.  Starting to get a good process going.

That process includes the super laptop HP gave me for my work in the original competition (thanks Sean) access to A360 and C4R (thanks Kyle) a license for Enscape3d (thanks Guys) and of course the wonders of "free" cloud services (Slack and Box)

Saturday, February 3, 2018


Another weekend, and looking forward to preparing more packaged tasks for collaborators on Project Soane to tackle.  First off I checked out the Box folder where all the shared reference material resides along with the families we are currently working on.  I knew from a Slack message that the large lunette windows of the Central Hall had been updated with glazing bars in a radial pattern, so I loaded this family back into the main model on C4R

At first glance it looks fine, but zooming in I notice that the glazing bars have come adrift from the glass.  Opening it up in Family Editor, everything seems fine, but of course the wall thickness is not the same, so change this from 6" to 12" and you reproduce the issue in the main model.

Easy to fix, just associate the sweeps with an appropriate work plane ... but no, that option is not available. Edit sweep and it's clear that the path was created using "pick 3d edges".  I had advocated drafting this pattern out in lines to get the proportions right, then proceeding to model sweeps.  Hadn't thought about discussing the difference between model lines and symbolic lines, or the two ways of picking a line to generate a sweep path.

Problem is that the model lines that were "picked" to generate the paths have now been deleted.  They would originally have been drawn on a plane.  Going into a side there is a plane called "Glass Surface" which seems to be the one, so I tried a bit of reverse logic, associating the frame and glass with this plane and adjusting their start and end offsets

Now I can also add a "setback" parameter to move the plane and the geometry should move along with it, allowing us to adjust the position of the window within the thickness of the wall. 

Forlorn hope.  The sweeps have no idea that they were once tied to this plane via model lines that are long gone.  Even if you lock the geometry to the plane it's not happy.  Breaks as soon as you change the setback.

Never mind. let's just lock that parameter at 4" and load it back.  Well it's fine on one side, but the wall on the other side is a different thickness for whatever reason and the glazing bars are floating off into space again.

So there's no option really but to create new sweeps.  (You can't convert a 3d pick into a sketch.)  So I set myself up to draw symbolic lines as a guide.  Going into Object Styles I chose the last subcategory and set it to Red, then started drawing.  It soon became apparent that there were deeper issues to be dealt with.

The smallest arc is not concentric with the others, and all of the arc centres are well below the sill line.  This comes from my original setting out of the opening size and shape over a year ago. Didn't seem to be problematic until we added the glazing bars. 

This space has a groin vault in the middle, and shallow barrel vaults (or deep arches if you prefer) at the sides.  The sides are formed by a wall hosted family which includes the Ionic columns.
I think perhaps I created this before I had fully defined the entablature profile.  Probably this got deeper when I looked at the source material more carefully and this meant cutting about 3 inches off the bottom of the window.  So I decided to raise all the vaults by 3" and adjust the window to match.
The groin vault just moves up.  Increase its offset value. 

The wall hosted arch family needs more work.  I noticed that there is a parameter for the shoulder height (springing point) of the arch, but adjusting this creates a gap above the Ionic capital.  Edit the opening cut to compensate, and while I'm at it, why not add a locked reference plane to keep this stationary while "Shoulder Ht" flexes?

All fine now, with a wider margin above the window ready for it to be updated.  That's easily achieved by editing the void cut, frame and glass: moving the arc segments up 3" in each case.  No parameters to worry about, it's intended as a one-off family, fixed size.  Now I can start sketching.

The reference photo we have is difficult to interpret.  Seems like extra glazing bars have been added and viewed from below the bottom is cut off and the perspective skewed.  I decided to take a look at the Dividend Office, which has similar glazing pattern.  Here we have 9 radial divisions, which is easy: 20 degrees each.

 But in the Centre Hall, we have 7.  After a bit of trial and error I voted for 5 x 25 degrees, with larger angles at the ends, next to the sill.  This compensates for the thickness of the outer frame.  So I set out a kind of skeletal framework, using drafting lines in 2d space.  Actually a spider's web seems to be a better metaphor.

Now to build sweeps.  Instead of using Pick Path, which would base the work plane on a picked 3d object, I go for Sketch Path.  Not to worry t

here is still a pick option at the next step.  But now the path is not tied to the object that was picked, so the resulting sweep can be associated with a new work plane later on if you so desire.

My desire is to use the aforementioned "Glass Surface" ref plane ... which is already controlled by  instance parameter "Setback".  I opted for instance because the walls at either side of the room that host these windows have different thicknesses.  Easy for me to adjust the location of each window relative to the wall faces.

I created the first radial bar, made its subcategory "Frame/Mullion", associated it with a material parameter, then mirrored it around using the red lines as reflection planes.  Copy one of these to one side, edit path, pick a curve and delete the straight line.  Slightly faster than creating a new sweep from scratch, because the subcategory and material are already defined.

Before completing the entire pattern I decide to test it out in the project environment.  Load it up, change the setback, all good.  And now it strikes me that my job is done.  I can save it back into the Box folder, write up a little post and let my collaborator finish it off.  I'm quite chuffed because I'm now seeing Project Soane as a useful vehicle for teaching basic Family Editor skills and sharing that process with the wider Revit community.

There are lots of interesting challenges here and they will surely generate all kinds of interesting topics for blog posts.  That's what I've been doing since the beginning of course, but the difference here is that I'm starting to see things through the eyes of someone less experienced.  That's the value of a collaborative team with different skill levels.  It's bound to throw up examples of knowledge sharing that will be useful to others.  Oh, and don't forget to test the Setback parameter.

By the way, notice the shadows on the wall.  Soane was master of effects of light and those spider's webs drifting across the moulded plaster panels must have delighted him.