3D CRAFT: Digitally recrafting lost interiors in Britain and Ireland

Lead Research Organisation: The National Trust
Department Name: London

Abstract

3D CRAFT brings together leading heritage, conservation and research institutions in Britain and Ireland to discuss new ways of recreating and experiencing lost historic interiors. The fire at Clandon Park in 2015 destroyed one of the finest works of surface ornament of early 18th century Britain and Ireland, it has also exposed the underlying framework, allowing new insights into construction and craft processes. Using Clandon as a case-study of the problems facing heritage professionals across Britain and Ireland, this network will foster a collaborative cross-border interdisciplinary discussion around the digital processes that can capture and communicate multi-layered building fabrics in all their complexity, including virtual and augmented reality.
National Trust is the largest conservation charity in Europe with expertise in the conservation of highly significant historic buildings and landscapes. The salvage of Clandon has demonstrated this expertise and has created opportunities to pioneer new technologies. NT has a strong track record of engaging in digital technologies and has collaborated with organisations like Google to test how VR, AR and MR can widen access.
Craft Value (a four-year Irish Research Council funded project in the Department of Art History and Architecture, Trinity College Dublin) is exploring archives of buildings in Britain and Ireland that reveal contemporary building practices, including the types, numbers, skill levels, and origins of craftsmen involved, the techniques they employed, the types of materials they used and how they were sourced.
The challenge of lost 18th century interiors is familiar to the Office of Public Works who have responsibility for historic buildings with lost or damaged interiors, such as the Four Courts in Dublin. New and developing technologies, from 3D Visualisation, Photogrammetry and Augmented Reality, combined with art historical methodologies offer opportunities to virtually reconstruct this lost heritage and present it to a wider audience using sustainable digital platforms.
The network also includes experts in Computer Science, Electrical Engineering, and Digital Humanities from University College London, King's College London, the University of Surrey, and Trinity College Dublin, who are at the cutting edge of digital visualisation.
The proposal aims for new levels of authenticity in the digital recrafting of lost and damaged interiors by retrieving greater amounts of data from photographs, film, and architectural fragments. The project will harness contemporary digital craft skills to elucidate the creative craft skills of the past, allowing them to speak to each other in a new virtual environment.
Public engagement is a core objective. The digital reconstruction of this material will facilitate new ways to enhance visitor experience at historic properties; revealing lost architecture. New technologies have the potential to allow visitors to revisit the past, to inspect architectural fragments of lost buildings in their original context and to understand the fascinating processes behind the construction of historic interiors. The craftsmen responsible for these richly ornamented historic interiors remain largely unknown to the public. This project aims to cast new light on their achievements. There is public appetite for understanding how things were made in the past, reflected in visitor numbers to heritage sites across Britain and Ireland. Digital media have the potential to highlight craft techniques that normally remain hidden under the surface, allowing them to step forward in the historic narrative.
In addition, there is scope to provide greater access to historic properties which are inaccessible to the public due to their continuing use for other purposes, for example, many prominent 18th century buildings are working government offices where visitors cannot be accommodated. Immersive 3D technologies can open such buildings up to all.

Planned Impact

The public will be the main beneficiary of this collaboration. The aim of the project is to find more compelling ways to digitally engage people with historic buildings and skilfully crafted historic interiors, be it through more convincing reconstructions for book and web publications, online animations, TV documentaries, or through immersive experiences in augmented and virtual reality designed within game engines. At the same time the non-invasive digital processes under exploration would offer sustainable means to help preserve such important examples of cultural heritage for future generations. Digital platforms can promote heritage to new audiences and there is huge scope for increasing community education and engagement. As stated in the Pathways to Impact document, the reconstruction of lost interiors allows buildings to have a 'digital afterlife' whereby they can be explored off and on-site, using virtual or augmented reality.
Institutional networks between Britain and Ireland need to be strengthened. While collaboration and knowledge sharing continues between the National Trust and the Office of Public Works, this AHRC application represents a first joint research proposal. The National Trust is the largest conservation charity in Europe with over 5 million members; is the largest landowner and largest museum body in the UK, owns more than 780 miles of UK coastline and is a custodian of 9 World Heritage sites and more than 500 mansions castles, parks and gardens open to visitors.
In Ireland the OPW are the principal body tasked with caring, maintaining, protecting and preserving historic properties across the republic. This joint application facilitates an important cross-border conversation around digital humanities in these important institutions during a uniquely disruptive period between Britain and Ireland. Better integrated pathways of research make sense between neighbouring countries with so much shared visual culture. British and Irish architecture has generally been studied in isolation, with academic institutions ploughing parallel furrows either side of the Irish sea. Through the digital humanities we aim to cross traditional academic boundaries that have long been drawn along national lines.
In conservation practice the use of digital tools is constantly evolving. This network will be a forum for key stakeholders to have input into how such technologies develop, forming a bridge between architectural historians, conservation specialists, heritage professionals, and computer scientists working on both sides of the Irish Sea. This research collaboration has a special focus on the value of craft skills, materials and finishes, which are crucial areas for conservation in both public and private practice. In order to encourage the maintenance of the traditional craft skills necessary in heritage conservation, we must find new ways to highlight the achievements of hitherto overlooked craftsmen. The anonymity of craftsmanship, in contrast to that of patrons and architects, has diminished their visibility in historic narratives, and resulted in a general lack of appreciation of their enormous contribution.
The formation of this collaborative network, by engaging directly with key heritage bodies such as the National Trust and OPW, will help channel the benefits of research directly into the places it can have most impact, as well as exposing students and early career academics in the humanities to the ongoing changes within the heritage sector. The provision of expertly crafted and curated digital content of historic value has many applications within the commercial sphere, as outlined in the supporting documentation under Pathways to Impact.

Publications

10 25 50
 
Title Digital animation of the Provost's House, Trinity College Dublin 
Description The facades and a staircase at The Provost's House were laser scanned by the digital team at Trinity College Dublin. The scans were then made into a series of animations by partner Andrew Tierney. The animations were able to communicate digitally the fabrication and components of the staircase. These were embedded in a film shown at the final networking event. 
Type Of Art Artefact (including digital) 
Year Produced 2021 
Impact The digital animation has helped in the teaching of architectural history; assisting students in their understanding the construction of a high-status 18th century staircase. It has demonstrated technically what is possible and could be useful as a teaching aid in the future. 
URL https://youtu.be/Y9mu5mdCHrU
 
Title Discovering the many layers of Clandon Park 
Description A 12 minute narrated film showing the interiors of Clandon Park, Surrey after a fire gutted this significant historic building. The narration takes the viewer through the remarkable interiors and where the crafted surface and the work of craftspeople three hundred years ago has been revealed. 
Type Of Art Film/Video/Animation 
Year Produced 2021 
Impact 353 views (by 18/6/21) 
URL https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=25jIBFhAzoA
 
Title Eighteenth-century craftsmanship in Trinity College Dublin 
Description A narrated film introducing the principal buildings of Trinity College Dublin, including inside the previously unseen Provost's House. The narration focuses on the work of stone masons, joiners and other craftspeople who created the buildings, and whose names are barely known, compared with high status patrons and designers. 
Type Of Art Film/Video/Animation 
Year Produced 2021 
Impact The film introduced to and has engaged audiences with the historic buildings of Trinity College Dublin. 1579 views at 08/03/2022 
URL http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TF2f8UJl61M
 
Description The 3D CRAFT network's aim was to bring together at Clandon Park and in Trinity College Dublin a new grouping of curators, conservation architects, architectural historians and specialists in digital imaging to discuss the range of potential techniques which might be employed in bringing to life the craft processes of the past for historic house visitors and students of architectural history. Our aim was to develop a clear strategy for collaborative, funded research, to discuss this strategy with heritage organisations and audiences and to spread the aims of project through public events, lectures, conference papers, and web-sites.
The difficulties and restrictions imposed by the pandemic meant that the UK and Ireland teams never met in person. However, creative means were developed to share the two case study buildings (Clandon Park and Provost's House, Dublin) and to explore the call aims; in particular for digital scientists to gain a sense of the humanities research concerns and questions and to allow them to understand the particular focus on the layered, crafted surface. Meetings were held virtually which had the benefit of increasing reach by including additional stakeholders which would not have feasible physically. In October 2020 the call funded the making of a narrated film to engage Ireland partners with the extraordinary physicality of Clandon Park and to share the incredible opportunities afforded by the fire to show the revealed layers of the historic building and historic craft processes. A film of the Provost's House in Dublin helped to increase the UK partners' understanding of how this fully documented, intact house could illuminate the ruins at Clandon Park.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=25jIBFhAzoA
and
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TF2f8UJl61M

In November 2020 when restrictions permitted, a UK partners site visit to Clandon was facilitated which included a live feed from the burned-out Marble Hall to Irish network members. This proved effective in communicating the significance of the Clandon site, in identifying the range of potential technologies to be explored and in raising some of the core problems in reconciling historic sites and digital interventions. Further, humanities partners identified the potential application of digital techniques to communicate craft processes to historic house visitors and students of architectural history through digital cutaways.

The principal output of the network was a joint research application to the AHRC-IRC digital humanities call submitted in March 2021.
Exploitation Route The principal output of the network was a joint research application to the AHRC-IRC digital humanities call submitted in March 2021. This was unsuccessful, but an effective working relationship was developed and remains between the UK and RI PI teams. The network ended with a large stakeholder meeting in May 2021, which brought together the network team, TCD architectural students, Clandon Park team, NT volunteers and interns, external consultants and specialist craft practioners. A web page on the main NT Clandon Park website raised the profile of the project with NT online visitors.

The feedback from the May 2021 Stakeholder session was very positive and the ideas explored during the network for using digital techniques to engage, inspire and enliven craft practices have been taken on board by the NT. The discussions and final outcome of the network and the research questions remain live and will feed into the interpretation of Clandon Park in the coming months and years. In addition to the continuing relationship between the UK and RI PIs, contacts made at Surrey University and King's College, London with digital specialisms will be of great use in pursuing these avenues.
Sectors Digital/Communication/Information Technologies (including Software),Leisure Activities, including Sports, Recreation and Tourism,Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections

URL https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/clandon-park/features/clandon-park-awarded-grant-to-research-digital-reconstruction
 
Description Working on a strategy to enhance public engagement with historic buildings and craft techniques was core to this networking call. The introductory film of Clandon Park illuminating the project received 1,277 views on YouTube (by 18/6/2021). And the film of Provost's House, Dublin received 1,580 views (by 08/03/2022). The laser scan of Prevost's House, Dublin continues to be used as a tool for teaching architectural students and the nature of the material means that it will continue to be used long term. The project was a catalyst for PI Sophie Chessum's research on the decorative plaster ceilings at Clandon Park which resulted in the publication of an essay in Christine Casey and Melanie Hayes eds., 'The Crafted Surface in Architecture', which is to be published in autumn 2022. Feedback from stakeholders, particularly National Trust volunteers indicated that there is enthusiasm for understanding historic buildings and craft practices better. The National Trust owns over 250 buildings open to the public and the project at Clandon Park will be an opportunity to trial interpretation methods and styles in the coming months and years with our many visitors which it hoped could be applied to other buildings.
First Year Of Impact 2021
Sector Leisure Activities, including Sports, Recreation and Tourism,Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections
Impact Types Cultural,Societal

 
Description 3D Craft Blog on Craft Value website 
Form Of Engagement Activity Engagement focused website, blog or social media channel
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Undergraduate students
Results and Impact Andrew Tierney, TCD '3D CRAFT UK-IR Digital Humanities Network', posted 1 March 2021
The blog described the 3D craft network call and was a platform to share Tierney's work to animate digitally the Provost's House staircase.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2021
URL https://craftvalue.org/3d-craft/
 
Description Christine Casey Silent partner: design and making in the early modern architecture of Britain 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Undergraduate students
Results and Impact RI PI 'Silent partner: design and making in the early modern architecture of Britain', RA Revista de Arquitectura 23 (2021) Special edition 'Who designs architecture? On silenced and superimposed authorship'. Includes citation of 3D Craft network.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2021
URL https://networks.h-net.org/node/73374/announcements/6333642/ra-revista-de-arquitectura-23-2021-who-d...
 
Description Christine Casey, RI PI, 'Pride and Prejudice: the 18th century interior in the historiography of British architecture' 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Undergraduate students
Results and Impact Christine Casey, RI PI, 'Pride and Prejudice: the 18th century interior in the historiography of British architecture' Leiden University 15th April 2020 (700 registered- consistent 280 attendees). Included discussion of 3D craft project.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2021
URL http://www.universiteitleiden.nl/en/events/2021/04/pride-and-prejudice-the-eighteenth-century-interi...
 
Description Networking Stakeholder event 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Study participants or study members
Results and Impact Stakeholder online presentation 24 May 2021, attended by representative of the Castletown Foundation, Dublin City Council, Dublin Civic Trust, Irish Architectural Archive, the Irish Georgian Society, The Heritage Council, Maynooth University, National Trust volunteers, University College Dublin, UK craft practioners working on Clandon Park
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2021