The Cathedral Project


The objective of this project was to model an authentic gothic cathedral for its application in the Pratt School of Engineering’s DiVE tank (Duke Immersive Visual Environment). Simultaneously the project marries the fields of: Art History, Visual Arts, Architecture, and Engineering to create a truly interdisciplinary product. By designing and “constructing” a cathedral in its entirety, one can gain a better understanding of how these magnificent structures were accomplished. In essence, a cathedral is a complex sculptural form, so one must design, sculpt, or—in this case—model a cathedral to fully understand its workings. For viewers of the project in the DiVE: it represents a complete immersion into a cathedral (something that was previously accomplished only by visiting the structure itself) . While history books offer scant, two-dimensional notions of gothic structures, the DiVE is able to conjure an immersive, three-dimensional environment.

This is based on the precedents of Notre Dame d’Amiens – 1220-1266 C.E., St. Denis Cathedral 1137-1281 C.E., & Notre Dame de Reims 1250-1420 C.E.

The structure relies on the typical proportions of a traditional French gothic “paperclip” plan: exemplified by double-aisles, a suppressed transept, and a full, circular ambulatory with axial chapels. Creating a system of proportions (generated in AutoCAD) and importing it to Maya, greatly simplified the organization and placement of cathedral-pieces.

For the most part, the cathedral adopts the three-storey elevation of Amiens cathedral: characterized by a relatively small triforium-level, an elongated arcade and clerestory level, and crowned by a soaring vault. In this project, the section was unplanned—it was instead the result of a compromise between plan and elevation.