Mood Boards: Eating

It has been a long time since I have updated. I completed my PhD at the beginning of December (2014), viva’d in February and finally had my corrections confirmed at the beginning of the month. Having spent a busy month somewhere in between working at Winchelsea ( and Bucklers Hard (

This post is going to discuss the first of a series of mood boards I created as a way of engaging with the 3d model of the private apartments at Bodiam as part of my PhD. The idea was that discussions (and critiques) surrounding archaeological visualisation have tried to engage with subjectivity and uncertainty in different ways. I suggest the presenting the representations of the past alongside some of the source images used to create them. Each of the boards I have created is themed around some element of medieval life or experience.

The board in this post relates to eating. Stock images from sites such as GettyImages tend to focus on people physically eating rather than things associated with that task.

Eating (7)

Eating (1)

Image sources:
Queen Elizabeth receiving the Dutch ambassadors. Painted between 1570-75 the artist is unknown. It is currently at Neue Galerie, Kassel, Germany. (Jokinen 2008)
Luttrell Psalter Featuring the Lord at Dinner (Copyright 1989 The British Library Board)
(British Library, Royal MS 14 E III, f. 76v) (BritishLibrary 2014e)
(Royal MS 19 D II f. 273r)(BritishLibrary 2014g)
The Book of the Queen – Christine de Pizan in her study – by Master of the Cite Des Dames in 1410 (British Library, MS Harley 4431, f. 4r)
The Coronation Chair, Westminster Cathedral (BBCHistory 2014).
The Portable Antiquities Scheme/ The Trustees of the British Museum (TheBritishMuseum 2011b)
British Library Royal 14 E iii, miniature of King Arthur’s Court.

First renders and thoughts on beams

I had a supervision yesterday with my supervisors Prof. Matthew Johnson and Dr. Graeme Earl where we discussed the first renders I had produced of my model so far. These images just detail the internal space: windows, fireplaces and doorways, and my first attempts at putting a roof and floors on the building.

I had been reading a lot around the subject of timber building construction to try to understand the appearance or these types of building. My first port of call was Richard Harris’s Discovering Timber-Framed Buildings this excellent little book explains the construction of these buildings in great detail with lots of helpful, clear diagrams. Based on his writings I started to plan the distances and shapes of my beams and how they would slot together. The following image is the results. I have just added some basic textures and materials to the renders to give an idea about the space that is not bright pink. I also realise that my smoothing groups need playing around with a bit.

Shape of beam bays

Internal beams upper floor

Ground floor showing beamed roof

A window and fireplace from the upper floor

The space the beams need to cross is quite short (about 5m) so there was no need to think about having to bridge the gap using a tie beam or similar approach. The distance the bays are placed apart does not seem to be set. I choose to space them evenly across the entire span about 5m apart as this “looked right” based on photos of other Medieval Roofs I had been using for reference (see below). Before spacing them apart I had to also consider the shape of this part of the frame. I had been looking at the above images of roof beams and decided to not go with a Crown Post and instead use 2 slanting Queen posts.

Wilmington Priory timber roof

Portchester Castle

Brockhampton Estate: The Great Hall

Presenting these images to Graeme and Matthew highlighted a few errors. Matthew suggested that the angle I had used for the Queen Posts was much too slanted, which is indicative of later buildings. Instead he suggested that it would be much more interesting to include a Crown Post or make the Queen Posts vertical.

As there are a number of options instead of just making one decision about how the roof is structured Graeme suggested that instead I create a number of different models with different roofing options, including a crown post and not, moving the number and position of bays around a bit to see if there are any obvious options for lining them up. We also discussed whether there would have been a ceiling concealing these beams. I had always assumed that the rooms would be open to the roof as this is common in halls. I had not really considered putting a ceiling in place on this upper floor.

What I had not considered was how much this changed the appearance of the upper apartment. Until now I had been thinking about them as looking fairly similar situated one above the other. However. when the roof is in place it will transform the upper apartment making it feel much larger and more open. Whereas the lower apartment will feel much more contained.

The second discussion point coming from the meeting was in reference to the beams and how decorated they were or not. We had been discussing them in terms of ornamentation of the type found at Ightham Mote (see previous blog). I asked whether, considering the lack of architectural ornamentation found at Bodiam, the beams, which would be cheaper to carve, would also be devoid of decoration. I had been thinking about it a lot as I need to decide whether I am going to shape them sooner rather than later. Matthew suggested that the question was even more complex as unlike a lot of slightly earlier buildings the household was not a peripatetic one, it was solely based at Bodiam. Which we would have assumed that more of the building would be decorated as it would not have had to have been moved around. So wondering whether the more decayed areas of the building are as plain as the rest of it is a very hard question, which I have yet to find an answer for.

Courtyard Windows

The work on the model continues, I have been working on the complicated courtyard windows. As discussed in a previous post I had been thinking about how I was going to make the windows overlooking the courtyard and as they no longer exist in the area I am focussing on. The windows overlooking the courtyard all appear to have been of a similar “type”, so my first decision has been to model them all on that design as unlike the exterior the courtyard seems to have been fairly uniform.

Second Floor Windows

First Floor Window Seat

I then had to decide on the number of windows that would be present along this side of the building and their positions. For this I have worked from a combination of observing the standing remains and looking at other reconstructions.

The building itself only offers one clue for these windows right at the northern extreme of the range. Here can be found the bottom of what appears to be a window seat detailed in the photo below. Apart from this much of the standing remains are below the first floor level.

Bottom of window seat at northern extent of range

Moving onto other peoples representations of the building. The National Trust provide a couple of sources for visitors to look at to try and picture that area of the building. The first is featured in the official guidebook and can also be found in John Goodall’s book The English Castle. It shows a cutaway reconstruction of the entire Eastern Elevation from above in a hand drawn style and in another image the courtyard. You can see areas of the courtyard walls detailing windows that are no longer present and internal areas of the building. The view is from a height above the building. The windows shown in these representation are of the same type I have suggested and are pictured below. They position the windows for the second floor directly above those for the first floor and there are four sets spread along this length of wall before you reach the spiral staircase.

The second is used as an aid for the guided tours for children as an interpretation tool. It is a series of stills used in the film shown at the castle and for sale in the shop. The images are based on a 3d model built of the castle by a digital media company for the National Trust. The ones we are concerned with show the courtyard and one of the rooms of the private chambers.The image of the courtyard shows the walls on the eastern edge of the courtyard. It shows the same type of windows as I have intended to use and the same as feature in John Goodall’s book. Again this image details four sets of windows along this section of the building.

Guided Tour Reconstuction

The final source is the model of the castle found in the Northeastern tower in a room above the introductory film about Bodiam Castle. An image of the model can be found below. Instead of lining up the windows on this model they are alterate on the first floor and second floor and on the first floor show alternating single and double windows.

Model of Bodiam

I have decided to go for the same approach as John Goodall as I think this fits more in the style of the other areas of the building. I have decided to feature four sets of windows and space them equally out along the range as I feel this reflects the buildings projected symmetry.

Moving on from these windows the final piece of wall that I had to produce was the gap between spiral staircase and the southern wall. I firstly inserted a set of doors (one on each floor) at the point where the staircase would have been entered. As a reference I used the same doors that had been used one above the other as used for the entrance to the eastern tower as there is no evidence what type of door would have stood there. I felt that if these doors were found in the same space they would look fairly similar.

I made one final decision and this was to place a squint in the wall overlooking the Great Hall. There is no physical evidence for this existing as the wall is entirely gone. I decided it would be appropriate having visited a number of other buildings which have this feature including Ightham Mote and Great Chalfield Manor. I decided as a similar feature is found overlooking the chapel at the other end of private chambers it would make sense to model it on this window.

Starting over

After having a play around today I came to the conclusion (which I had i think decided on a while ago) to restart. My reasons for doing this are that as I have gone along I have realised that errors with the shapes of the walls were going to cause me a lot of trouble later on with rendering and a lot of what I had done had been hacked together a bit as I had gone on to just make it work. The final realisation was that I realised that the reason I was having issues lining up the survey data with my walls was because I had forgotten the walls are not straight! This has come from me remembering (albiet a bit late) that the way medieval ceilings/ floors are constructed is based on *balancing* the edges of beams on an overhang. the following image shows the east elevation and the more mossy strips of masonry show where the line of bricks at the top of each floor before the wall falls back.

So I have started from scratch again to make sure I include this. I started by importing the survey data again but this time grouping it all together and moving it to (0,0,0) as well as aligning it to the grid. This should make future modelling easier than it has been as x,y,z now should be moving either along, into or up the walls of the elevation. I next imported the wall file I had used before which was constructed of basic shapes such as extruded rectangles to create the space of the rooms. I deleted all but the main rectangle as I decided until I had lined everything up and generated the right shape for this basic space there was no need to try and create the tower rooms as they would probably need editting at a later point anyway. I then shrank the wall down to just the basement level. I then created a copy of this shape by selecting and moving along the x axis, than had to just extend it to the right position. I then selected the polygon of the wall and moved this backward to make the wall thinner and generate the step on which the floor would stand. I did this again to create the 2nd floor. This has solved all the problems I was having trying to line up the window guidelines on different levels.

I am now going to start modelling the window on the lower floor. I think this time I will try a slightly different method for creating the right shape as I realised the method I was using wasn’t generating the most even shape.

Lessons in a sensible naming convention

I have been away on holiday for a week and then went on a mini adventure to London to do some important *research* at some museums (I went to the BM, V and A and Museum of London looking for medieval *stuff* to fill my rooms). The trip wasn’t that successful as there is a bit of a lack of the things I was looking for (beds! See but it did give me a nice break and the odds and ends I did see were helpful.

Just before I went away I had a bit of a play around with walls on the model as I realised somehow I had made them a bit too deep and hadn’t joined them in a sensible manner to the tower. I have now added them using the probooleon create tool however, I have not done it in a particularly senesible manner. Having looked clsoely at it the walls have not lined up well and not are not smoothing properly. I think the best solution for this will be to start again before I had tried to make combine the two objects and do it in a more careful manner (mainly checking they are lined up before I start). But I am quite happy with the newly edited walls in terms of their general shape and positioning.

My next step was to insert the window object I had made into the walls. I used the create ProBooleeon command again and subtracted the window from the selected walls.

My next step was to begin working on the chamfers that decorate the window. I started on the one on the upper edge of the window. I had to again convert the object to an editable poly and started by experiemnting with applying the chamfer modifyer to the edge. But I realised this wasn’t actually the most effect method to deliver the desired effect. Instead I found that by playing around with the polygons and moving a few of the edges it appeared much better. I started by pulling the outer edge of the curve up. I then took the next line of polygons and moved them clsoer to the outer edge. The only issue is that instead of appear as a nice sharp edge (like the aris on the wall) the edge is smoothing.

The first window!

Having come back from holiday I have since learnt a harsh lesson in correctly naming my files. I have spent the morning running over what I had done to create the previous window on the next window only to find I had been working in the wrong .max file. An error we all make and vow never to make again. I think its time I introduced a more ordered storage method for my files.

Window hell

I have been working/ swearing over the creation of the windows at Bodiam. I am currently playing around with different ideas about how I am going to build the model anyway, I have so far built the basic outline of all the walls and am now thinking about how I am going to “cut” the windows out of them. My idea so far has been to use compound objects to “subtract” the basic shape out of the solid walls.

My issue has arisen due to the shape of all the windows. The “easy” ones I decided to start on are a basic rectanglular shape on the outside but open up into a much more broader frame, the following photo is an example:

The issue has been creating the curve along the top of the window as it shrinks as it moves back.

I have tried using a range of shapes and lines to create this, I couldn’t figure out whether teh best way to create the shape was to creat the plan of the shape and work from that or the elevation and either stretch or shrink it.

This second way ended up being the best option. I created a spline of the inner wall opening. I then converted this to an editable poly and extruded it to the depth of the window. The created the curving ceiling, but hadn’t solved the issue with the opening shrinking towards the window itself. I then applied a “taper” modifier with the taper axis primary in the x axis, and the effect in the y axis. I needed to apply -0.76 to get the right effect.

The shape is not perfect yet, but I think if I go back now and build the shape up from scratch ensuring that it is symettrical when I apply all of the changes it will be perfect!

Hello world

This first blog post I will use to quickly fill in the gaps of what I’ve said I’m aiming to do and what I’ve actually done.

I have been playing around with starting a blog for a while and I must admit it is more for me to keep track of what I’m doing and how I’m doing it than for anyone else. I think my aim is to keep my digital ideas categorized separately so those with a lot more experience can quickly skip over the pain staking things and only read the (hopefully) interesting results or ideas of what I’m doing.

So to begin I am about to embark on my first project of modelling the private chambers at Bodiam Castle. These can be seen in this image (thanks to Prof. Matthew Johnson for the photo)

To start on this I took part in a two week field season in April 2011. I worked with Penny Copeland, James Miles, Pete Wheeler and the Arch2024 students to produce the east elevation of the castle using a total station connected to AutoCAD using TheoLT.

This completed elevation I proceeded to import into 3ds max. I will be using the survey data as a guide to shape my model of the rooms. I am currently exploring different methods of building up the shape of the rooms (the position of the walls and their heights). I have tried using lines to draw around the edges and am also experimenting using Standard primitives and using them to create Pro-Boolean objects. I am also trying to begin to cut holes into these completed walls as I think this will help determine which option is better suited.

I have also been thinking about the issues associated with the data. The survey data is incredibly detailed because of this I am having a hard time making decisions about how closely I should follow it and also how to interpret a number of the lines. This has led to lots of discussion with Alice Watterson ( about the process of reconstruction and how we can bridge the gap between our observation of the site today in the present, and our visualisation of the past. It has also led to me questioning how I can fill in the gaps of my data (where walls no longer exist) and how I can build this uncertainty into my visualizations.