Friday, 11 January 2013

You need a circle to build a house

The plan of the House of Orpheus was the first one I drew directly in 3D studio max. 
Initially, I considered using Adobe Illustrator (a software I used quite often in my previous job) but then I realised that now I am more comfortable with Max than with any other graphic software. Furthermore, a plan drawn in Max will be entirely compatible with the 3D model (avoiding some of the problems that imported files may cause).

My plan of the House of Orpheus in 3D Studio Max

At the beginning, I was quite clueless about the methodology to use but Drew, my supervisor, thought me a very effective method based on an initial assumption and the use of circle shapes (or 25 sided n-gon which, in this context, is pretty much the same).
Our initial assumption (arbitrary as every assumption) was that the atrium of the HoO is a regular rectangle. Although I really doubt that there is any really straight wall in an ancient Roman house, the assumption is mandatory as a starting point. Moreover, the atrium is actually a fairly regular space.
Then, using the data we collected on site, I designed circles with the same ray as the dimension I wanted to represent. The very handy thing is that, being every point of the circle at the same distance form the centre, the circle is still a precise mark even when the adjacent element turns out to be not completely aligned.

Why did I need such a feature? They say numbers never lie, but in my experience they never completely match either :-)
Material errors during transcription, different layers of plaster, non regular shapes. I can think of a number of variables that may affect the measuring operations. Or it’s just a kind of useful curse to remind 3D modellers that they are not reproducing “the real thing” but only a representation of it. Actually, I encountered a similar issue when I was working on the Temple of Isis. Not only I have never seen two plans with identical measures but sometimes it was difficult even to find two sources that roughly agreed on something. Now I can easily imagine the headaches that Francesco Piranesi or John Soane suffered!

My plan of the House of Orpheus in 3D Studio Max
(all the working layers visualised)

Considering the basic level of fuzziness (usually between 2 and 7 cm) embedded in my data, using circle shapes was extremely useful and allowed me to deal with that fascinating jigsaw of walls, doors and columns.
Here are few things I should say about this digital plan, in order to make it more transparent.

* The thickness of the walls in the House of Orpheus if fairly regular. With the exception of the wall separating rooms 5 and 10, they all measure between 40 and 45 cm. Thus, I thought it was safe to assume that the walls I wasn’t able to measure because they are shared with other houses we were not allowed to enter (such as the south wall of the garden, or the west walls of rooms 14 and 15 ) follow the same rule. I also made the assumption that the walls overlooking the street are a bit thicker than the internal ones.

* The length of the viridarium (from south to north) has been calculated summing the diameters of the columns to the distance between them. Even though I have measured every single intercolumnation, I have measured only one column and I have assumed (for simplicity) that they have all the same diameter. I also assumed (again, for simplicity) that all the columns were perfectly aligned. My calculation was quite well backed up by the sum of the elements belonging to rooms 12, 4, 5, 10 and 11.

* All the traditional plans of Pompeii I have seen so far, tend to simplify the shape of the rooms and make them more regular than they actually are. I have chosen to preserve the irregularities and the oddities in the rooms dimensions because I thought they might be relevant in the visual analysis.

* The positioning of the impluvium in the present map is an approximation. It was the last element of the House we measured and we were running out of time (and light). I measured the dimensions of the impluvium itself and its marble elements but I didn’t measure their distance from the walls of the atrium.
My supervisor is quite confident that we could derive a more precise position through the photogrammetry of the atrium he ran.

* When I had little inconsistencies with my data I chose the option tending to the most regular shape.

No comments:

Post a Comment