Wednesday, July 20, 2016


The Doric Vestibule is an interesting space with quite a complex set of requirements.  It sets out to provide a "VIP entrance", a back door well away from the hustle and bustle of the public banking halls that offers an alternative route to the court suite, and the governor's office.  The entrance is slightly off-centre along the newly straightened Princes Street, which causes 2 immediate problems.  There is a change of angle, and a change of level.  The angle change is slight (5 degrees) and fairly easily handled by sleight of hand.  The level change is considerable and dealt with by splitting into three parts, three short flights of steps.

The vestibule itself is a cube beneath a dome, sitting at an intermediate level.  On all 4 sides there are lobbies characterised by sturdy Doric columns.  To my knowledge, these are the only Doric columns used in the bank.  It's a special space. 

The shallow lobby that houses the outer door serves to disguise the change of angle and forms a landing between the first two flights of steps.  The side lobbies with their doubled up columns, give the impression of a major cross-axis, boosting the grandeur of the vestibule, but in practice only lead to service stairs and back-of-house areas.  The major focus is forward, via an impressive coffered barrel vault and the same motif of a half-moon arch above paired columns towards a long, long side-lit vista.  This is the corridor of power, leading ultimately to the Governor's office.

For the moment I am using the Doric Column family I made some years ago, whose shortcomings prompted my first Parametric Pumpkin Entry.  The entasis is fudged by using two blends: two straight lines instead of a curve.  That makes for a lightweight family, easy to build and easy to modify. I originally made it for a reconstruction of the Temple of Hera (or Poseidon) at Paestum. For the bank I had to adjust the proportions, reducing the capital in proportion to the shaft.  Once again I am struck by the variety that is possible within the classical idiom.

The dome was easy because I had just overhauled my pendentive family for the Chief Cashier.  I haven't shown a lantern at present because the drawings suggest otherwise, but since then I've stumbled on a photo that clearly shows that there was one.

As usual I just started building, stumbled across puzzles, studied many drawings and a single photo, and ad-libed my way to a solution.  The whole thing is quite a complex assemblage of small rectangular blocks of different heights, light wells and clerestory lighting: typical Soane.  Many of the drawings in the archive didn't make much sense to me until I was into the thick of the puzzle.  Then one by one the provided answers to the questions I had about the relative heights of the different spaces, where the walls needed to be punched by windows, which of these were semi-circular, and which tall, thin arches in twos and threes.  I really love these kinds of puzzles although they can be quite frustrating at times.

I've broken the back of the problem now, and will leave it to settle in my mind before coming back to refine and elaborate at some later date. 

Next item on my list was to look at the cellars.  I had begun these under the banking halls on the east side, working out the basic system of groin vaults between segmental arches.  I have a parametric family for the groin vaults, and there are some good plan drawings of the entire basement.  So it's just a matter of working your way methodically through, checking that you are lining up with the walls above and resolving discrepancies.

As you move towards the North and West, the basement becomes a ground story, pretty much level with the courtyards and eventually with the street itself as you approach Tivoli Corner.  You can only really work on this for a couple of hours at a stretch before it becomes tedious.  So I switched over to the entrance court for a while, which brought me to another interesting realisation.  If you look very carefully at the photos you can see that there are stairs in the corners leading down into lightwells the serve the basement cellars.

I also had a go at elevating the Bullion Court.  There isn't a lot to go on here: part of a photo and an old survey drawing which seem to contradict each other.  But I can't just leave the walls blank, so I put in some placeholder windows to move things along.  There are also steps around one side of the courtyard, leading down from the corridor next to the court suite.  But that's for another day.

I've mapped out the cellars fairly well now: where they exist and where they don't, placed groin vaults in several areas, and added most of the archways that connect it all together.  Some of the narrow and triangular courts to the north and east contained privies.  You can see them clearly on the basement plans.  I'm not sure whether they had cesspits or a night soil system (carry it away in buckets) but I am guessing that those courtyards were quite smelly places.  Hence their location well away from the public.  Perhaps the governor himself had a water closet.  That's another interesting research question perhaps. 

Actually there is an area that could be construed as VIP rest rooms.  I've marked it on this embryonic ceiling plan.

I have set up section box views that allow you to imagine walking around from room to room.  And I'm beginning to get my head around the whole building as a sequence of working spaces.  These rooms need to develop individual characters, and there are drawings for some of them.  It's a daunting task though.  Initially I have used rectangular openings in place of doors.  That's the way that Soane represented them for the most part, which is interesting in itself. 

When did architects decide to start showing door swings on their plans?  Presumably such issues had always been resolved on site directly with the carpenters themselves.  Maybe the change came when architects no longer dealt directly with tradesmen.  So I set myself to develop a set of doors based on the sparse evidence available, and have started to place these as best I can.  But that will have to be another post.

For the moment let's just review the new VIP entrance route that played a key role in Soane's planning of the North West extension.  It begins with the Doric Vestible discreetly positioned along the newly straightened Princes Street, proceeds down a long passage with the Waiting Room Court to the right, meets up with an existing corridor that runs along the West side of the Bullion Court, turns right for a while, then right again to give access to the lobbies and waiting rooms of the Court Room Suite: the domain of the Governor of the Bank of England

And finally, let me finish with a rendered view, looking through the Doric Vestibule, and towards the long passage which is brightly illuminated by the open side of the Waiting Room Court.

Saturday, July 9, 2016


Back in April I did some work on incorporating mesh geometry into Revit families in such a way that the horrible spiders web of black lines is not visible.  This can be very useful for certain kinds of object that are available for download as mesh geometry but very difficult to model convincingly in the traditional family editor.

As an illustration I used the justly famous furniture designs by Fritz Hansen.  At the end of that post I gave a link to a Revit file of this families.  Apparently some people have been unable to access this link, which was on A360, so I have added an alternative link.  In case you had this issue, try downloading from here.


Friday, July 8, 2016


It's a long weekend for EID, so I finally got around to organising my stuff on
Turns out this is a terrific place to store all my past presentations (RTC, BIM Breakfast, AUX, BIM Show Live, whatever) 

You can just upload documents (powerpoint, pdf, etc) or you can upload pictures and text as a "Journal Post" which means that you are basically using SWAY to quickly organise this material into a modern style web page.

So here's a link to all the talks I've uploaded so far  MY TALKS

You can also get to this via the top bar.  Which will be the fastest route in future. 

While I was at it I also fleshed out my "THE WAY WE BUILD" section.  There are a lot of posts here at Shades of Grey under that heading, but lends itself to a somewhat cleaner style of presentation with less emphasis on Revit tips and "recording my process".  So I am thinking of using this to make my work available to a wider audience: non Revit users who might conceivably be interested in buildings, history, technology etc. 

There is an absolute stack of visual information on my hard drive that could be assembled into journal posts, so check back from time to time if you are interested.  Once again you will be able to get there via the top bar in future, but right now take a look at the start I have made using the link below. THE WAY WE BUILD


Thursday, July 7, 2016


I have been looking at the render gallery for Project Soane.  Very interesting.  Quite a variety of approaches and levels of competence.  I think it's great to see people "just having ago" alongside others who are obviously looking to show off their professional expertise.  Room for both in this type of project I think.

I tend to favour the ones that show some affinity for Soane's own architectural feel.  I'm perfectly happy with some of the "crazy" interpretations, but the gold lame tends to put me off a bit.  There are some great examples of atmospherics, rainy nights with coach and horses speeding by etc.  There are some very interesting animations and VR interpretations also. 

I was particularly gratified to see a lot of submissions based around the exterior screen wall, which I spent many hours figuring out and developing.  It really feels great to have provided a solid base for such an outpouring of creative effort.  Not surprising that many also chose the Consols Transfer Office interior, which Russel Fuller-Hill took such pains to model in considerable detail. I guess he is also getting a kick out of the different interpretations of his model.

Tivoli corner was quite popular of course, but sadly the cornice moulding must have dropped off accidently in one of the converted formats because it was absent in many of the renders.  Some people obviously noticed and put the cornice back on.  In fact it was really encouraging to see that a few people took the time to compare the models to source material and adjust their models to more accurately reflect Soane's design.  There are a couple of discrepancies in the Consols Transfer Office for example that I pointed out at the time.

The issue here was one of figuring out which drawings to follow, because there are often 4 or 5 different variants available from the preliminary design stage.  Soane commonly explored quite radically different solutions before making a final choice and it's difficult to know which to follow at times.  I made frequent reference to the photos that Frank Yerbury took before the bank was demolished.

The images included here constituted my "submission" for the rendering stage of Project Soane.  Inverted commas because I'm not a serious contender when it comes to high-end rendering.  I have been focusing my attention on fleshing out the model, continuing to solve the 3-dimensional puzzle, scouring the sources, doing it "the BIM way".  So I put together four presentation boards, each one a collage of images.  It was a way of reflecting on my journey and of gathering my thoughts as I continue to develop the model as a whole.  There are a few areas that lag behind still: I need to insert the staircases for example, and the vaulting of the cellars is little more than half complete.  After that it would be very rewarding to add more detail, bring the whole model closer to the standards set by Russel in the CTO. 

There are already quite a few sheets in the model, but I really would like to expand on this and create something like a set of construction documents.  But all this will require time, so we will have to see whether or not I can retain a long-term enthusiasm for this particular project.  For the moment, all that creative energy on display in the rendering gallery has got me fired up again.

Check it out.

Saturday, July 2, 2016


I've really fallen behind with finishing posts.  Here's one I started almost a month ago about work I did on Project Soane a couple of weeks before that.  The target area is the southern side of Lothbury Court.  There is a kind of triumphal gateway leading into a tunnel for the bullion carts to complete their journey to the unloading point next to the Bullion Office.  The original building by Sampson had two courtyards: a public "Entrance Court" and a private "Bullion Court".  As part of the N.E. Extension, Soane remodelled the back wall of this second courtyard, making it curved so that the angles tunnel can pass through at right angles.

I had previously mocked up the triumphal arch on the Lothbury Court side very roughly.  Time to flesh it out a bit.  I had come across an old photo that helps with this, possible one of Yerbury's record photos from the 1920s.  There are four columns supporting four statues.  Actually Soane went through multiple versions of this design before settling on a solution.  (surprise, surprise)

The columns stand away from the wall by a fair distance and each carry their own projecting entablature.  I have a wall sweep on the back wall, but it's not that easy to make wall sweeps wrap around 3 sides of a wall neatly, so I decided to make a family using the same profile.

This worked fine and was easily extended to include the pedestal elements that rise up behind the statues.  These have a version of Soanes favourite ornamental feature, not a canopy dome this time, but instead a deep barrel vault.  Once I had inserted these, I realised that the higher section of parapet wall is not spread across all 4 columns as I had it, but confined to the central bay above the arched tunnel.

There is a really nice watercolour "rendering" in the archive, a sectionalised elevation with strong shadows and a very effective pink tone for those elements that are viewed in section.  As it happens, this is not the final design. The screen leading to the Residence Court is very different and the parapet elements that I was modelling here also vary from the final version.

By the way, wherever I show one of Soane's old drawings in my blog posts the copyright resides with the Soane Museum and it is a great privilege for us all to have access to these drawings via their website.

I tried to capture a bit of the same feeling in a Revit section, but it's a pale imitation really.

Amongst the archive drawings I noticed one that showed the lantern of the Consols Library.  That was the first reliable piece of information I had come across for this element so I went ahead and modelled it.  Haven't got the parapets right yet in this area though.

The tunnel, or bullion passage if you prefer, has two guard stations: one at the beginning and one towards the end. They are both similar with doorways on either side framed by pilasters that carry semicircular arches.  They act as a rhythmic punctuation to this barrel vaulted passage that ends in an apse above the final archway into the bullion court.

There followed a period of fussing around in the interior: adding in a few missing walls to divide up the smaller rooms, inserting doors (openings to represent doors at present) plus room names and placeholder chimney stacks.  This kind of work gets a bit boring after a while so I spread it out: an hour here and an hour there.

Which brings me to the Chief Cashier, an interesting room that features in one of Yerbury's pics.  There is a dome, possibly with a lantern.  So that takes me back to the pendentive family I developed last year.  I decided to reconfigure the parameters: basically a bit of formula work so that you can enter the size of the square that the dome sits on and the radius parameters are derived from that using a "flatness" factor.  I had a request to share this, so that will happen shortly.

The dome sits directly on the walls on 3 sides, with an apse on the fourth.  The photo seems to be taken from a gallery running along the side opposite the apse, but I don't have any more details on this structure.  There are no plans for the first floor rooms as far as I know, except for the Residence Court.  It looks to me as if the gallery sits on top of the corridor on the left hand side

I think that's enough for a post.  I can conclude with a view of the triumphal arch in the context of Lothbury court.  Soane finally got the balance between columns an arches just about right I think.  Tricky to maintain unity of design in a project like this that just "sort of grows" from year to year as the board of directors come up with new requirements, not to mention new pieces of land to incorporate into the scheme.

Just one more image.  An overview of the whole model as it stood 3 weeks ago.  The phases of development are colour coded, as they have been since I began this work almost a year ago.  Red is what's left of Sampson's original double courtyard.  Pink is Robert Taylor's rapid expansions to East and West.  The East wing is mostly blue because it was rebuilt by Soane in stages, banking hall by banking hall, within the existing rectangular shells.  We have been looking at part of the orange bit today.  The North East extension by Soane on newly acquired land.  Next post will be moving back into the green area.  The North West extension that involved closing off part of Princes Street and converting it from a dog-leg into a straight line.  We shall be working on the Doric Vestibule which is in the middle of the new portion of Princes Street.