Sunday, August 18, 2019


I’m about to go on vacation. Weekends will be spent with my grandsons, but on weekdays I will be wearing my “The Way We Build” hat. From 26-30 August I will be in London, looking at buildings and meeting people. The following week I will be based in South Yorkshire and from 9-13 Sept, somewhere between Hastings and Basingstoke. I am particularly interested in meeting people involved in Heritage Work and stone masonry.

I want to connect with people who can contribute practical insights into our work, which applies Building Information Modelling to the study of historic architecture. We are an international team of enthusiasts, using digital tools to ask probing questions about structures like Notre Dame de Paris.

How were the zigzag vaults around the ambulatory built? Why do the spiral stairs at the four corners of the Transepts terminate are different levels?   We intend to embed information in the model and to make it accessible online. Input from people with deep knowledge of traditional building crafts will be crucial. 

BIM is all about collaboration: bringing together multi-disciplinary teams and integrating their contributions. We are applying this approach to study how societies have chosen to build, in different times and places. 

Prior to starting Project Notre Dame, we spent 4 years piecing together a Revit model of the Bank of England, as it was when John Soane retired almost 200 years ago. 

I’ve always been a visual thinker. From as young as I can remember, drawing was my favourite way of analysing the world. I still use hand sketching as a way to gain fresh insights.  The fluid and intuitive nature of this hand-eye-brain process makes it a wonderful complement to the more constrained and systematic work of building a BIM model.


I love using the power of my “BIM pencil” to think about buildings. It forces you to think about function, structure and sequence in a way that simple mesh modelling (digital cardboard) fails to do. This is what we are doing on Project Notre Dame: taking lessons learned on Project Soane & using BIM to explore the “Way We Build”.


The term BIM is a catch-all label for digital tools and processes that facilitate collaborative thinking about buildings.  BIM uses data-rich models, to integrate contributions from multiple participants in a central location, where conflicts and queries can be discussed and resolved. We can create arresting visuals & VR experiences from the same data set we use to generate measured drawings, spreadsheets and analytics.

BIM is normally confined to commercial building contracts, but we believe that it has enormous potential for collaborative studies.  Almost everyone is fascinated by the way different human civilisations around the world have built towns and cities over the centuries. Increasingly people are applying BIM tools and processes to heritage work, archeology, art history, interpretative studies aimed at the general public.

BIM models have the potential to integrate contributions from a wide range of participants interested in understanding how buildings work, why they were built that way, what meaning they can convey to us today. This is the approach we aim to pioneer, drawing on the knowledge and experience of people across the world with a diverse range of skills and interests.

Our team of enthusiasts is spread across 4 continents, connected by cloud technologies. We learn by doing, by debating, by studying history. Mostly we are BIM addicts, but why not expand the circle?

If you have a different perspective to offer please contact me here on my blog, or through LinkedIn. Maybe we can meet in the UK and talk about buildings. What could be better? 

Kudos to Paul, Alfredo, Daniel, Marcel, Francois, Russell, Eugene and everyone else who has contributed work, images, ideas that are reflected in this post.

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