Wednesday, July 17, 2019


I wonder if I will walk along the eaves of Notre Dame one day.

The ground floor windows that illuminate the many side chapels are represented by simple placeholder families right now. In reality, many of them have a triangular “gable” I think this is a nineteenth century addition. For some reason the windows on the North side of the nave don’t have this feature. Maybe they ran out of money, and the side that is visible from across the river took priority.

What is it about the spire?  Primeval symbol ?  or just a landmark, visible above the rooftops? Certainly, it manages to balance a tower-heavy mass and to offset the solidity of masonry with a sinuous spikiness. I wonder what the medieval spire was like before its state of dishevelment justified Viollet le Duc’s redesign.  So far I haven’t come across a drawing that shows this.

Marcel’s modelling is shaping up pretty well now, lego men stepping up the roof valleys where it straddles the crossing and crockets arrayed up eight ridges of the “witches hat”  Lots of detail that could be added, but it’s compatible with the rest of the model fat the moment.

Two of the South East window bays are actually portals connecting the chancel to the sacristy. So I decided it was time to rough out this addition which was also an innovation of Viollet le Duc. In contrast to the overall symmetry of the cathedral it is an irregular form. But what do I make of an annexe for storing relics which has evolved into a tourist exhibit.

Religion has deep roots. Hunter gatherer bands lack the rigid dominance hierarchies of our primate relatives. This seems to have been achieved by shunting alpha and beta males to the realms of fantasy.  This reduced the hostility between groups creating a positive selection pressure. Groups that told stories about common ancestors and kept skulls in niches survived famines by collaborating.

But if the sacristy is a remnant of our origins on the African savanna, does that make tourism the modern equivalent of a pilgrimage? Is that how we now relate to our ancestors, by traipsing around museum exhibits?  For my part, I prefer the “active learning” approach we are pursuing with Project Notre Dame.  So maybe the Revit model is our “sacristy,” the sacred relic that we are preserving for the benefit of the human tribe.

Be that as it may, buildings require maintenance, and access routes above ground need safety rails. And rails need posts for stability.  So I set about dividing the railings around the various eaves levels into bays and placing simple rectangular blocks on the grid lines to stand in for the more elaborately sculpted posts that exist in reality.  There are some alignment issues where these sit on top of pilasters that are part of the flying buttress families, but we will sort that out later on.

In the corner where the South Triforium gallery meets the Bell Tower, I stumbled across another surprise.  The roof pops up to a higher level.  This is reminiscent of the junction with the Transepts where it also pops up as it turns the corner.  It's kind of hidden under the flying buttresses and I only spotted it in one grainy black and white photo.

I think there are probably unanswered questions here, but for the moment let's just take note of the vault over this bay, which is much higher on the outside than the inside, allowing for an extra tall window.  When you know what to look for this taller window is evident in one of the panoramas on the TruView free site, but I had looked at this several times before without realising what I was seeing.

There's a great little sketch by Viollet le Duc which shows what's going on in section.  Actually that's another revelation, discovering the depth of his scholarship and talent.  I learnt such a lot when I was working on Project Soane: a new deep insight almost every weekend .. and Project Notre Dame is headed in the same direction.

As an offshoot to discussions around “how to get hold of a point cloud” we came across a fascinating website called Mapping Gothic. This has a lot of useful information about a huge number of cathedrals across both France and England, including some splendid 360 panoramas of Notre Dame de Paris.  Highly recommended.  University Art History departments are doing some splendid work, all we need to do know is introduce them to the benefits of BIM 😊

Since the last post we have received a huge influx of offers to assist in various ways.  I am truly humbled by this response and we have started to devise systems for enabling a “content creation” role in parallel to, an in support of the live work on BIM360.  I think we will also need to have a couple of people who focus on setting up views and sheets, annotating, developing and enforcing naming standards, etc.  

This project has developed very rapidly in an almost “accidental” fashion and we are pretty much making it up as we go along.  If you come across our VR experiences at the BiLT conference in Seattle, please realise that this is very much a “Work in Progress” and we are fully aware of the many shortcomings and inconsistencies.  

As for the “Content Creation” role, we have set up a cloud storage are on the Mega NZ platform.  If you get an invite, please accept it, install MegaSync for Windows and synchronise the Incoming Share you received to a folder on your local drive.  That way, you will get updates and reorganisations that will inevitably take place over the coming weeks.

So that's it.  The model is moving forward on several fronts, and the community we are building around the collaborative process is growing rapidly.  Alfredo & I have been accepted as speakers at AU in November.  We have started to explore the VR potential.  Living in pretty interesting times.

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