Initial construction – front façade, as at 27 June 2016, Image: Ortelia
“This is the most fun thing anyone has ever paid me to do!” has become something of a refrain for me in recent months. The Art of Nation will present an online, interactive interpretation of Charles Bean’s 1919 drawing of the Memorial building. Taking a fairly simple sketch and translating it into a navigable, 3D space has resulted in seemingly endless questions about interior design: where would the doorways be? Would they be arched? Would all the doorways be the same? Would ceiling heights be consistent throughout the galleries? What would cornices look like? What kind of flooring would they have had? What, if anything, would adorn the pediments on the front of the building? How would the signage on the front of the building have appeared? …
To answer these questions we have first referred to what Charles Bean said explicitly about the building – for example, that it should be constructed out of ‘white Australian marble’ – and where it isn’t stated, taking guidance and inspiration from Neo-Classical revival buildings, especially museums and memorials, of the period. This has involved much research online, especially using Google street view and Google Cultural Institute to view the interiors of art galleries (so much joy!) Particularly relevant have been the Art Gallery of New South Wales, State Library of New South Wales, Art Gallery of South Australia, State Library of Victoria, the National Galleries in London and Washington DC and the Lincoln Memorial in Washington DC (Bean cited the Lincoln Memorial as a reference, although it was not completed until 1922.)
Once we have an idea of what we want we send images and discuss the possibilities with our project partners, Ortelia, who mock up preliminary 3D models and send images to us for consideration, which open up further possibilities to add details and fine tune the design. One thing that became immediately apparent is that Bean did not include a foyer, meaning the front door would have opened straight into a gallery.
Initial modelling of vaulted ceiling, showing view from entrance straight into gallery, 29 June 2016. Image: Ortelia
Development of internal arches between gallery spaces, June 2016. Image: Ortelia
As someone new to 3D modelling, I’ve been impressed to learn how quickly details can be sketched to give a visual form, which can then be refined for the end result. In the example above we are experimenting with the design of the archway, trying to find the right decorative motif. Given the popularity of Australian flora and fauna for this purpose we looked for source material that we could adapt (you may be familiar with those used at the National Film and Sound Archive, for example.)
We turned to an artwork in the collection for the source of the wattle design - the Memorial to Lieutenant-Colonel John Treloar, created by Leslie Bowles: