Tuesday, June 30, 2020


A year flashing past.  My youngest son has turned 33.  In a couple of years he will be half my age.  My last-post-but-one reflected on work I did a couple of years before he was born.  Let’s Build Zimbabwe, Module B.  Since then I have re-assembled that booklet, remaining close to the original. I re-typed all the text, & cleaned up the drawings one-by-one.

That was a tedious process in some ways, but spending the time examining them closely was a positive experience.  I’m probably not the only person reflecting on my past life during these strange lock down times, but for me it is turning into a remarkably positive exercise.

I have been motivated to create new drawings of this type: drawing on my ipad, using long lost sketches as an underlay and emulating the crisp Rotring technique that I developed all those years ago.  The aim was to capture the activity of building, the processes, sequences of events in time.   You can do this with video clips now, and I think this is a wonderful addition to our arsenal of educational weapons, but there is a level of clarity in a well though-out-drawing that video capture can never hope to achieve.

The Slack group for Project Notre Dame is a useful sounding board for me, especially in the age of social distance.  It always helps to explain your intentions and methods to someone else.  Teachers often learn more from their lessons than their students, and that’s not a bad thing.  

Module B was the last of the 3 books we had printed and distributed to schools.  (We started with C for historical reasons, then flipped back to the beginning of the series.  D & E never went beyond an outline and some rough sketches) B is the one that crystallized our ideas about how to structure the books.  We came up with a series of ideas for training rigs that would give pupils a hands-on glimpse of different building activities.  One of these emulates a simple timber roof structure, built at ground level so that it is accessible without scaffolding and attendant risk.

When I started on this “restoration project” I was using my phone to capture the images from faded newsprint pages.  It’s fast, and yields images of remarkable quality which sync to One Drive (and my laptop) automatically.  As I moved on to Module A, I was also doing some “spring cleaning” of my flat and rescued an old A4 scanner from one tangled corner.  This had never been set up on my current laptop, but that was easy enough.

The images are still grey and discoloured at the edges, but at least they are nice and square on the page. I have been isolating the drawings in preparation for retyping the text.  It would be wonderful to assemble the entire 5 booklet series.  Task completed, 35 years later?  That would be typical of my life and many of the projects I have embarked upon.  Better at starting than finishing.

I began looking at the “Let’s Build Zimbabwe” series in preparation for a talk I was to give for the Volterra Reality Capture group.  I wanted to give some context to my life-journey, leading up to Project Notre Dame.  The main body of that presentation was a live session of Revit, and I started by looking at the clerestory windows of the nave, which were enlarged about a century into the construction process.  

In preparation for that, I set up a sheet, with a perspective view in the middle and small callouts of the two end conditions, stacked up at the sides.  Judicious use of colour over-rides helps to link the higher portions of roof that pop up at the ends, to the callout views which explain what is going on inside the spaces.

Another couple of days was spent setting up “Window Schedule” sheets, assigning codes to the different types, and organizing them in a logical sequence.  The families are still a work in progress.  Francois is the active member for this domain, with previous input by myself, Alfredo and Daniel.  Looking forward to seeing further progress, including more “stained glass” texture maps.

As you can see, some of the windows are still represented by the plain “placeholder” family that I created right at the beginning of this project.  Probably we need to balance modelling work and sheet setup as we move forward.  Important to make the model accessible to the outside world.  Although incomplete, I think it has reached a stage where it is a very valuable resource for students and researchers in various disciplines.

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