Sunday, July 31, 2022



VILLEIN = Low born rustic : peasant, farmer, yokel. I've been reading a book about feudalism: a time when simple folk looked for protection in the face of marauding bands by swearing allegiance to a lord. Let's hope that current instabilities don't drag us back in that direction 


I'm just back from two weeks in the UK. So exciting to travel again after all the pandemic nonsense. Not that a novel respiratory virus is a small thing. I am on the edge of the vulnerable age group and I did my best to behave responsibly in terms of social distancing and vaccination. But I was never in favour of compulsion or shaming and the politicisation on "both sides" was sad to see. 


My biggest worry now is the knock-on effect of the lock downs. We in the "developed world" are feeling the pinch, but that is nothing to what the weaker economies have been going through. I have personal knowledge of young people in Africa whose small businesses were ruined by lock downs and I think we will be very lucky to avoid mass starvation in several countries this winter. Let's hope I am wrong. 


While in the UK I stayed in a terraced house whose age was in question. The row was clearly Edwardian, but for some reason the last two houses were thought to be much younger. I love this kind of puzzle and have long admired the terraced housing that accompanied that extraordinary burst of human flourishing we call the industrial revolution. 


Naturally I decided to build a Revit model, taking what I deduce to be the original “as built” as my starting point. Just one quick session, so there’s a long way to go, but it’s always a useful way to ask some deeper questions about how a building fits together.

There are segmental arch windows and a half round arch at the front entrance. So for my second Revit session I decided to develop a better, modular approach to arched door and window families.

Different kinds of arches require different approaches to parametric control of the arc segments. Plus there will often be need for parallel curves for frames and panels, rebates etc.

I decided to set up profile families to develop the necessary constraints and formulas for each type. These can be used to create void sweeps that cut wall openings, whether simple or rebated, and the same formulas used for nested frames and panels / sashes.

Not even halfway there yet, but I’m happy to have made a start. The terrace house typology utilised by hundreds of builders across the UK is a beautiful example of evolutionary radiation in the #waywebuild. Dozens of species and subspecies, hundreds of point mutations. Hope I can take this exploration a lot further.


The Gothic arches are quite tricky, especially when they head in the Tudor direction. Maybe I will go a bit further with the segmental and half round next so as to progress that house type further. So many different studies I could be doing, but took me a couple of days to recover from the travel to be honest. Biological clock ticking away. 


Wednesday, July 20, 2022



Images from May 2020. Not sure how such an odd assortment got bunched in together like this. These were early covid times and I probably thought it was going to blow over soon.


I did spend some of my enforced free time remastering one of the building books we wrote for Zimbabwe secondary schools back in the 1980s. The line drawings here were intended to teach basic concepts of technical drafting. Using familiar objects to translate between orthographic and isometric projections.


The heart shaped amphitheatre was one of those random little challenges that my boss Brian throws at me from time to time.  Fun while it lasted.


The passage behind the Kings gallery at Notre-Dame was one of the last things I tackled before deciding it was probably time to move on.  There are so many “secret passageways” in these old Gothic buildings: access for maintenance concealed within the thickness of the masonry walls.

And that funky stair balustrade was a response to a query my old friend Ross sent my way, arising from the scan to BIM work he's been doing for some years now, mostly in South Africa. Stair balustrades are not Revit’s finest hour, but there are ways of getting there if you put your mind to it.


Monday, July 11, 2022



Barnsley Town Hall, love it or hate it. George Orwell tore into the corruption of the Labour Party for squandering money on such grand classical symbolism when the miners families were struggling to survive.

But isn't this a bit patronising? Much as I love Orwell, why can't a working class community aspire to have a grand cathedral or a thrusting symbol of municipal government?  One of those age-old questions.

For that matter is it really so extravagant? Doesn't the grandeur come from the massing and proportions rather than rich materials and excesses of ornament.

I haven't had much time for this work of late, so the images here represent about 3 hours of work. Just starting to understand the basic geometry and how it sits on the cross slopes of the chosen site.

Arriving in Barnsley by bus or train you emerge at the bottom of Regent Street which slopes up steeply, on axis to the war memorial at the base of the central tower.

The design is by Arnold Thornely, a Liverpool architect, active in the first half of the twentieth century, best known for the Parliament Buildings in Belfast. Shades of Lutyens: stripped down classicism, tending towards art deco at times in his practice with Herbert Rowse.