Meeting NOHO

Filed under:Visualisation — posted by Hugh Denard on January 14, 2011 @ 4:16 pm

I met Niall Ó hOisín at NOHO HQ on 46 South William Street at 2.30pm. In fact, Niall had introduced himself to me back in October 2009 after a DHO and Architecture Ireland-sponsored lecture I gave, on “Recreating Research, Art and Education in Shared Virtual Worlds”, which took place simultaneously in Dublin City Council’s Wood Quay Auditorium and on Digital Humanities Island in Second Life.

I was delighted to find Breffni O’Malley there at NOHO, too. Breffni and I met at ARQUEOLÓGICA 2.0 in Seville last June, at which he showed me the amazing “Dublin City Walls” mobile application that NOHO and he (then at Silver City) produced during their Medieval Dublin project for Dublin City Council. This is a truly stunning mobile app: truly the best by far that I’ve ever seen: I hope it gets a wider audience!

Getting back to business, we talked through the “Abbey Theatre, 1904” project, and estimated that, in order to make the visualisation process as streamlined, and therefore affordable, as possible, I will need both to secure ample, good-quality research sources and to examine them in advance sufficiently carefully to be able to give NOHO detailed advice on their interpretation. Under those circumstances, NOHO ought to be able to produce a good model, concentrating on the auditorium and stage areas, in around 7 days (5 days for 3d modelling and 2 days for texturing and lighting). Niall’s team will then need a further day to prepare the model for the Metropolis real-time engine used by Trinity’s “GV2: Graphics, Vision and Visualisation Group“, led by Professor Carol O’Sullivan, so that she can guide a funded summer intern in populating the Theatre with avatars (virtual humans) simulating both actors and audiences.

We looked at some books in the NOHO “reference collection” (which were glad to be temporarily liberated from the reach of all the renovation dust upstairs) and Niall pointed me in the direction of the Irish Architectural Archive and its on-line Dictionary of Irish Architects 1720-1940. He also promised to send out a query to a couple of contacts, including the Heritage Officer for Dublin City Council, Charles Duggan, who might have, or know about, further resources.

Niall has, as a personal project, modelled the streetscapes of much of the contemporary Dublin city centre, using the animation frames slider in his modelling software as a timeline (one year per frame) to correlate the location of past and present structures. It’s beautiful work! Perhaps we could, in time, extend this work to the Abbey Street and Molesworth Street section of Dublin from, say, 1903 (immediately pre-Abbey) to late July 1951 (immediately following the fire of 17th July).

Getting started…

Filed under:Project — posted by Hugh Denard on January 10, 2011 @ 5:51 pm

In 1904, Annie Horniman acquired the Hibernian Theater of Varieties (commonly known as the Mechanics’ Theatre) on Lower Abbey Street, Dublin for the use of the Irish National Theatre Society.

Joseph Holloway, staunch supporter of the Irish National Theatre Society and architect, was engaged to renovate the interior of the theatre, which opened on 27th December 1904 with performances of On Baile’s Strand by W. B. Yeats, Cathleen ni Houlihan by Yeats and Lady Gregory, and Lady Gregory’s Spreading the News. The “old” Abbey Theatre remained in use until damaged by fire in 1951.

The task of digitally visualising the Abbey Theatre as designed by Joseph Holloway poses many challenges. Holloway’s architectural plans and drawings fortunately survive in the National Library of Ireland, and we have several black-and-white photographs of the early Abbey. However, it is more difficult to obtain detailed information about textiles, colour-schemes, and fixtures and fittings originally employed, as well as the less photogenic but functionally important backstage areas.

Because there will inevitably be gaps and contradictions in the historical information available to us, it becomes crucial to open the doors to the interpretative process so that the decisions we are making can be freely observed. By documenting the research process, and publishing wherever possible the primary sources upon which our visualisations are based, viewers will be able to evaluate the finished models as confidently as they would any other kind of research hypothesis.

This approach is guided by the principles of the London Charter for the Computer-based Visualisation of Cultural Heritage (2.1) February 2009. (If unfamiliar with the use of computer visualisation as a historical research method in general or the London Charter in particular, a good place to start is the on-line Introduction to the Charter written by Richard Beacham, Hugh Denard and Franco Niccolucci in 2006.)

By publishing our journey as a web-log, to which anyone can add comments, we hope that the Abbey Theatre, 1904 project will help to stimulate new ideas and questions about the history of this fascinating and important time and place.

To continue, see the website’s Contents, or use the links in the right-hand margin.

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image: detail of installation by Bronwyn Lace