Friday, 4 January 2013

Orpheus has a new plan

VanderPoel's plan of the House of Orpheus
Highlight in orange: the south wall of the garden
In order to model a visualisation of the House of Orpheus, I decided to make a new plan of the building, based on the hard measurements we took on site.
Why? What is the added value of such an effort? Wouldn’t have been more sensible to start from a good pre existing plan, such as Presuhn’s or Vander Poel’s ones?
I had basically two reasons for that.

First, maps and plans are simplified visualisations of places. Thus, they are «models», ie artificial objects created to represent and study reality. This implies that they cannot represent all the aspects of reality but have to choose what is relevant for a specific purpose. To make it simpler, I wanted a plan made ad hoc for my purpose, and the only way to have it was, basically, to make my own.

For example, if we compare Presuhn’s and Vander Poel’s plans we’ll notice that they are slightly different. In the latter, the south wall of the garden is slightly divergent from the north one, while in the former the south wall converges to the north one quite dramatically.
Who is right and how did it happen? In my opinion, the point is that all maps start from some artificial assumptions. The first assumptions affect the entire visualisation of the data. Presuhn and Vander Poel probably started from different assumptions, thus their plans (which are both not «the real place» but a representation of it) are not identical. However, if their purpose was (as I think) to visualise the relationships between buildings and their arrangement in the city plan, the maps are both useful and both «correct».

Presuhn's plan of the House of Orpheus
Highlight in orange: the south wall of the garden
However, my purpose wasn’t to examine the House of Orpheus in a relational perspective. Actually, it is very relevant to me if a wall like the viridarium's one is straight or not because it would definitely affect the information about visibility of spaces.
Eventually, I decided to build my own map relying on my hard measurements, photographic documentation, previous plans and satellite photographs as the ones offered by google maps and google earth.

Second, Johanson says that there is no better way to understand an ancient building than rebuild it, at least in a virtual space. I discovered it when I started modelling and this relationship still deeply fascinates me. In my previous experience, I always started from someone else’s plan. At the beginning, I saw the need to draw my own one “only” as a challenge and an opportunity to learn new skills. 
Then, when I started working on the plan I realised how much I was already learning about the building itself, the relationship between spaces, the orientation, the proportions, the position of doors, the balance (or lack of it). When I finished the plan, I already knew crucial information about the building even before starting the proper modelling.

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