Sunday, April 24, 2022


Song by Toots Hibbert, the “soul man” of Reggae. I had the pleasure of seeing him live at the peak of his powers over 40 years ago.  As usual with my titles, it’s just a play on words.  The last post looked at Monk Bond in some detail, noting a variant by Klint which uses the horizontal rhythm (stretcher, stretcher, header or S-S-H) but stacks up vertically in a different way.

The result is a kind of diagonal drift, but in response to the practical reality of windows, piers and colour variations it becomes an irregular rhythm which is difficult to follow, except by marking up the headers in photoshop.


I did some studies using the Revit brick families I created a year or so ago.  I don’t have very good source material for his interiors, but there is some evidence that he used a second version indoors.  Why would this be?  This is all conjecture, but I see the overlapping headers as a way of strengthening the tie-back function.  It could be that he likes the complexity of the pattern, but it’s very difficult to read in practice.  I suspect he was going for a somewhat randomised appearance.

Compared to Flemish, English etc the pattern is difficult to spot.  It’s diffuse.  So inserting broken bond to deal with the contingencies of window spacing etc is less disruptive.  Even for a brick-bonding nerd like me, it’s difficult to spot.



Looking through the photos I took in Denmark in 2017,  I found several cases where the S-S-H horizontal pattern was used.  None of them used the Klint variant.  Sometimes there was a rather casual variation as the courses stack up vertically.  Sometimes there was a “stretched-out” Flemish look with a definite vertical rhythm (regular columns of headers)

In my wanderings I cam across an entry on “Brick Gothic” in Wikipedia, referring to medieval churches in Scandinavia and parts of Germany.  This contains a picture labelled “Gothic bonding” with no further explanation.  You can spot the S-S-H module here, but once again the vertical stacking is irregular. 

There are also cases where the module is used to generate chevron effects, based on our brain’s addiction to finding patterns wherever possible (e.g. clouds, flames, rocks etc that remind us of faces or animals)


I built four panels of walling with my Revit bricks. They all use the same standard course (S-S-H) built as an array family so you can type in the number of repeats. The four different patterns result from the vertical stacking of this standard course. The individual bricks are “shared, nested” elements with different types for external stretcher, internal stretcher & header.  So it’s easy to set up view filters to emphasise the headers, or to hide the internal skin.

Old walls are quite thick, especially in churches.  You can’t achieve that kind of height in loadbearing brickwork using 9” walling.  So just showing the outer skin and the headers allows you to imagine thicker walls.  Those headers are just tying you back to whatever else happens further back.  So Klint was able to express different patterns internally and externally for example. He could use red bricks outside and yellow bricks indoors where reflected light is important.  He could use smoother bricks indoors and rougher bricks outdoors.

That exercise lends support to my hypothesis that the overlapping headers make for stronger tie-backs.  Let’s move on

I have started to add Klint’s flagship design to my “Churches & Temples” collection.  I had made some basic “toy blocks” that I developed for massing models of Notre Dame and Bourges. These were adapted to the new situation.


So you start throwing basic shapes together. Check the results against reference material. Throw up interesting questions. Adjust the model in response...

It’s a cyclical process, ascending spirals that gradually increase knowledge of the way the form works.

"Now I know that, now I understand ..." (Monkey Man lyrics)


There is a basic language here: vertical slots and stepped gables. It’s derived from the brick Gothic tradition but given a surprisingly fresh, modern feel.

Triangles within triangles, thrusting towards heaven. All this from a guy who trained as a building engineer but wanted to be a painter. He transitioned to architecture relatively late and two of the churches were unfinished when he died, well into his seventies.

This church which I have long regarded as an intriguing and enigmatic example of  “Expressionism” turns out to have more layers of depth and meaning once you put the time in and get your hands dirty.




Thursday, April 21, 2022


I made it up (the NAME) 

Is there a “real” name for it? Was the bond invented by P.V. Jensen-Klint as a variation on a local bricklaying tradition? Not clear to me. There is a variant of Monk bond, that was used in Denmark, according to photos I took in Aarhus in 2017.  But it’s not quite the same as this one.

I was looking at my photos of Klint’s famous Grundtvig's Church in Copenhagen. Zooming in on the brickwork I was intrigued by the bond.



Very difficult to discern the pattern at first so I decided to draw it.  Seems to be the logic behind the bonding used in his churches, although it’s usually broken up by vertical projections, recesses, windows & doors.  Also the bricks are old and worn, on top of the natural variation in colour and shape. 

Drawing has always been one of my primary tools for solving problems, discerning patterns, separating order from chaos. It’s a physical, embodied process, something that underpins all our cognition in my view.  I sketched this out on my phone while lying in bed. Two stretchers, then a header, two stretchers then a header.  But the devil is in the details: how that pattern stacks up vertically.  Klint used a sequence that I haven't seen anywhere else.




It’s useful to have a logical abstraction lodged in your brain when trying to make sense of the chaos of the real world.  Visual patterns have always been important to me.  Over the past week or so I’ve been doing internet research on my phone while failing to drop off to sleep. (I know, bad idea, but I prefer counting bricks to counting sheep)

I took a couple of thousand photos in Denmark in 2017.  At the time I didn’t realise that there were two Klint churches just a short walk from where I was staying.  Turns out that I took a snap of the brickwork of one of these as I walked past, eager to cross the bridge into the town centre.  I’ve no idea what motivated me to take this shot, but it makes for a fascinating analysis.

It's just a mish-mash of old bricks, right?


I had to put a colour overlay on the pattern of headers in order to see it clearly.  This is a great illustration of how a vertical reveal impacts the bond.  You can’t put a quarter brick on an external corner.  One of the first rules you learn as a bricklayer.  Very dodgy to expose a small cut piece in this way.  So to maintain the overlap (1/4 lap) you end up using a three-quarter bat, and placing a header next to it to make the maths work.  (1/2 + 3/4 = 1 ¼)


Don’t worry about it.  Just notice how there are subtle variations as the bonding pattern meets up with the edges of this pier.

It’s worth spending a bit of time studying this example.  When I first looked at the photo I couldn’t see any logic at all.  The fact that there are a full ten courses between repeats, (plus the need to insert headers and three-quarter bats in different locations in response to the return edges) makes for quite a complex puzzle.  Hats off to the bricklayers who did this work.  I wonder how many architects could match the problem-solving skills required here, while doing very demanding physical work, outdoors. Now that's real multi-tasking.

This is the Bethlehem Church and it uses a lot of the same architectural language as his larger and more famous design, Grundtvig’s Church.  Given the angle of the previous snap, you can’t really tell how far that pier projects, but with a bit of Google Earth detective work I worked out the location of the shot, and it seems to project by a full brick length (say 9 inches)

I’m slightly embarrassed that I walked past this church without registering its provenance.  Maybe if I had been walking on the other side of the street.😊  I’m not sure I will ever get the opportunity again.  The interiors seem to be very impressive in their simplicity.  Would love to have had that experience.

To conclude for today, I will show a study that uses my individual Revit bricks, (from the exercises I was doing about a year ago).  The top two elevations are the same piece of wall, with different view filters.  The first image emphasises the logic of the pattern which repeats itself every third course.  The second elevation gives an impression closer to real life: a much more subtle effect with the natural variation of the clay.

Monk Bond is not very common you do see it sometimes in garden walls where the greater proportion of headers makes it easier to keep both faces presentable, compared to Flemish.  The variant shown below is one I spotted a couple of times in my photos from Aarhus and that’s the local tradition that I suspect Klint adapted in such an interesting way for his churches in Copenhagen.




Sunday, April 10, 2022



“Carry on Subscribing” featuring slapstick comedy in the tradition of Pinewood Studios.  Not really, just a little Kenneth Williams joke to kick things off.

I have been advocating better tools for bringing mesh geometry into Revit for some years now. In 2018 I got some help from Russell Fuller Hill to bring statues into Project Soane. The edge hiding trick via 3ds and DXF is not the slickest workflow ever but it does the job when the chips are down.


So it was exciting to see OBJ imports with automatic edge hiding pop up in Revit 2023. And I agree with Paul Aubin that we will take whatever is on offer and put it to good use, but all the same the limitations are a bit disappointing.

If you import OBJ into a family template it doesn't behave like a DWG mesh. You can't scale it, and you can't find its layers in object styles to apply materials. You may find a material or two in the Materials dialogue that can be renamed and redefined.


I found a couple of free downloads on the interwebs. The stonehenge model didn't bring any added value to my recent work. There is a better looking file on Sketchfab but I was unable to reset my password there.

So I have a chair and a cushion. I installed some free mesh editing software hoping this would be less intimidating than 3ds but one of them kept crashes and the others didn't seem to have the features I needed.



So once again I stumbled around in an application I wish I could use with fluency. It was easy to extract a single chair from the 4 seater desk I had acquired. That came into a family, and looked pretty good but with a largish file size and a bit overscaled. I was expecting a scale factor that I could adjust, but i not there and the scale command is also inactive. That's a shame



I tried decimating the mesh to get the poly count down. Didn't affect the file size as much as I hoped and messed with the smoothness of the geometry. Not worth doing in this case. For the DWG / DXF Edge hiding and bumpier shapes like statues, decimation tools are important. For the OBJ imports... so far my advice is "don't bother"

I did acquire some new skills at scaling mesh objects in 3ds. Its not hard. I'm just a total novice. I did also experiment with some remeshing, smoothing, etc but ultimately decided to stick with the original mesh.


I did decide to try decimating the cushion, and putting it through the old edge hiding routine. That brought the file size down and once done gives a cad import that can be easily scaled to provide scatter cushions of various sizes.



If you have an OBJ mesh that gives you a shape you want, the new facility is a blessing. You will probably have one or more material names baked in. Control their appearance from the materials dialogue and if you need cushions with different materials you will have to duplicate the family and rename materials in family editor. Could be worse.


My wish list?

Mesh objects imported into Revit to have a "hide edges" check box and a "scale factor" parameter. Ideally that would work the same for OBJ and DWG. Baked-in materials inherited from OBJ and bylayer materials applied to DWG are fine, but material parameters would be even better.

The more mesh imports work like native Revit geometry, the better.


Thursday, April 7, 2022


 Stonehenge. Circles are ancient. People sitting around a fire, or holding hands in a ring and chanting rhythmic mysteries. Wooden palisades in defense of high ground. The heavens themselves move in great mysterious circles with the passing seasons.  This is the origins of geometry and from there, mathematics: that strange realm of abstract thought and eternal, disembodied truths.  


Building a model, whether physical or digital, incites a deeper understanding than looking at pictures can ever do. Sometimes it’s good to work from memory.  To draw a plan of Stonehenge without referring to external sources. What concepts and archetypes have lodged in your subconscious brain.


How many bays make up the henge? I’ve known of it for 60 years probably, but never registered the number. Mental Ray has a template called panorama as one possible starting point. You get 12 canvases to draw on, and I found myself placing 3 bays on each.  Turns out that 36 bays is 20% over the top.  Still it was fun to draw and animate.


I like the freedom of the lines to represent rough hewn stone. This captures something that native Revit geometry never will. They are only flat stage scenery of course. A nod to the performing arts.


No doubt there were performances of a kind at Stonehenge in ancient times.  Were there spirits of the stone?  Did these rough-hewn sarsens represent human ancestors in the minds of those who erected them? Would they have made them smooth and perfectly flat if they had been able?  For me there is something hugely emotive in the irregularity, the “natural stone-ness”


I have revived techniques I developed 5 or 6 years ago, using paths and profiles containing splines to break the tyranny of pure, rectilinear geometry.  There are scanned versions of the “ruin” in its present state that have popped up on social media recently.  I have made the quip before about “capturing” v “liberating” reality.  I want to convey the rough & ready feel without becoming too literal.  That’s what models are for.  You have to make choices.  That’s the whole point.  


Stonehenge. The name is elusive, enigmatic. Hanging rocks, stone gallows. (Hang, Hinge, Henge) “The giants’ dance” was another ancient label. Religion begins with the ancestors. Dancing on the shoulders of giants. Stone is the material to represent those who came before. From pyramids to cathedrals.  Stone memorialises history.  There were wooden circles and stone circles in the Wiltshire landscape, probably existing side-by-side rather than as an evolutionary sequence as was once suggested.


One theory speaks of the realm of the living (wooden structures) and the realm of the dead (cold stone.) There were avenues, routes cut into the landscape, ditches and mounds: stupendous feats of earth-moving.  Was there a ruling class who directed these efforts, wielding the stick and the carrot? That’s how things seem to have worked everywhere else.  Hard for us to imagine a tribal society on the British mainland, in transition from roaming hunter-gatherer bands to settled farming, but highly organised and capable of congregating in their thousands on Salisbury plain.


Sarsens are a type of stone, scattered around Salisbury plain by glaciation.  Bluestones were also used, transported from Wales, possibly from a previously erected circle there.  The word Sarsen is an allusion to Saracen, a medieval term for Arabs and North Africans.  Interesting to think of the various interactions between Western Europe and the Middle East over thousands of years of human civilisation.  Sometimes involving power struggles and ideological friction, sometimes free exchange of goods and ideas, often movement of peoples



Do Stonehenge and Gobekli Tepe share anything in common, beyond a superficial resemblance?  I wish I could shed more light on these fascinating questions.  Meanwhile I have added a basic representation of the inner "horseshoe" : larger stones with more of a taper and somewhat broader & thinner in plan.  Much more could be done, but will I get distracted by some other modeling challenge first?

Tune in next time for another exciting episode.  😂😂😂