Middlesex County Court House: The Making of A Model

For the second Digital History assignment, in following in the significance of the Middlesex County Court House on the City of London from the first assignment, I decided to create a three dimensional digital model using Trimble’s Sketchup, with the intent to gain a better understanding of the actual size of the court house in relation to London and the Thames River. As many paintings and sketches of early London, capture the court house as focal point in their artistic works, the significance was made evident, but to what degree did the works capture a true rendering of the building. Similarly, the artists captured an elongated court house, with large, broad  battlements and turrets, tall secondary court room windows, all situated on a hill overlooking the Thames River. In constructing the court house in Sketchup, the aim of the end project was a tactile building that could be utilized as a interactive model in helping with understanding the connection of the court house with the London landscape. 

In order for the 3D model to be as accurate as possible to the current structure, I used London fire insurance plans, which provided a good overall idea of the size of the court house, along with the materials and the number of stories utilized on the building. I also used a plan from a report completed on the court house in the 1970s, by Norbert Schuller, which was fairly accurate to the current structure.  As well I visited the Middlesex County building to collect actual measurements of doors, windows and stairs. As the exterior utilizes stucco grooves to imitate ashlar, I could use the average measurement of a brick to figure out the placement of upper level windows. It was also easier that the windows were similarly panned, allowing for the measurement of one square section to be multiplied depending on the size of the window. To accurately apply the measurements and plans, I geo-referenced the location of the court house using Google Earth, which provided a good template for a foundation. With the numerous sources at hand, the model outcome would appear to have been an easy task, but in dealing with a new program and wanting to have exact details for a historically accurate court house, Sketchup proved to be a frustrating endeavor. With every helpful step forward using online tutorials, one little mistake of sometimes half an inch, equaled a missing floor or a window that would not cut out, putting me two steps backwards. 

After countless hours creating walls, adding widows, doors and gothic details, the great structure has now come to life as a digital tool to help better understand its size and layout in relation to downtown London. 

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In order to increase its accessibility, I utilized the animation in Sketchup and created scenes, which then could then be exported to iMovie. I created a video of the model, allowing for a more clear and well flowing walkthrough, with the addition of historical background voice overs and music. 

Part 1 can be accessed on Youtube here.

Part 2 can be accessed on Youtube here.  

The use of the digital tool Sketchup in the creation of a model of the Middlesex County building proved to be an advantageous virtual representation in end, through displaying the building’s great significance to London, although the process presented challenges to an academic historian. Due to lack of experience with the digital tool, more time was spent on the court house’s creation then any other project this semester. Through utilizing Sketchup and iMovie, the benefits of digital tools in virtually displaying history became more evident, along with the need of more education for historians like myself in being able to use them for educational purposes. The greatness of the court house’s stature and architecture has been made even more apparent through the creation of the three dimensional model, as one can better comprehend its size and layout in relation to the landscape. The numerous arched windows command an excellent view of the river, its large fortress battlements and thick walls display its strength, while the gothic detailing adds beautiful character to the overall structure.

In the end, my initial attraction attraction to the building has been heighten through realizing the importance of the court house on the development of London from a village to a city, as well as the men who had the idea and drive to create a large stone building in barren landscape, and to those who have stayed true and maintained its beauty for generations. The Middlesex County building, greatly signifies a historical landmark for the city of London.

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