We were recently pleased to deliver a large (1.25m 0.75m) 3D printed model of the late 17th century Bradgate House to the new Bradgate Park Visitor’s Centre, just outside Leicester, UK. This new exhibition which was designed by Creative Good Ltd for the Bradgate Park Trust , provides the visitor to this ancient deer park with a richly presented overview of the park’s geology and prehistory through later human occupation and management to the present day. Part of that history focusses on the Tudor house, that used to sit in the centre of this large estate and which was the home of Lady Jane Grey, England’s “Eight Day Queen.” We have been carrying out research on the history of this relatively under-studied building involving practical field work and laser scanning the remains of the building as well as archival research to piece together how its innovative use of technology and ambitious design was at the forefront of aristocratic English architecture, and how its architects and patrons imported renaissance ideas from the continent in the early 16th century. We have blogged previously about the laser scanning, archaeological investigations, digital reconstruction process and the dynastic rivalries at Bradgate House – click on the links.
The building evolved in number of phases, driven by the political ambitions of the Grey family, their rivalry with the other great Leicestershire landowning family the Hastings, and was also constrained by the fluctuations in their finances and favour at court. The model itself is large and was printed in a series of eighteen removable parts, to allow future changes should historical interpretation of the remains of the building change over time. With 3D printing this provides an economic form of lasting adaptability, as parts can be modified on the computer and 3D printed and inserted as required. The model is monochrome grey to colour coordinate with the rest of Creative Good Ltd.’s exhibition design and to focus the viewers’ attention on the physical form of the building which is not readily apparent when one goes out into the park and looks at the ruins themselves. Accompanying the model are photorealistic, full-colour 2D reconstructions of the exterior of the building as it would have looked around 1700 AD, showing in detail the brick diaper-work (diagonal patterning of bricks) which was a decorative feature of early English brickwork and also showing the building’s immediate landscape context. As well as exciting developments in immersive Virtual Reality, on-screen CGI and other forms of digital display of built heritage, there is still an important role for physical models in heritage exhibitions. The immediacy and permanence of a physical model as an informative artefact in itself appears to have a lasting appeal to audiences and museum curators. It may be that models produced using new techniques like 3D printing will in themselves become historical objects in their own right, not only as simplified and abstracted interpretations intended to more clearly convey an understanding of what is no longer present but also as exemplars of the use of new technologies – but that remains to be seen. In the meantime we expect the Bradgate Park Trust’s new 3D printed model of Bradgate House, produced using the latest historical and architectural research will help visitors better understand this building, the family that occupied it and their place in English architectural and social history.