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Featured Modeler: Arrigo Silva

In the West, some of the longest-standing architecture is found in churches and cathedrals. As cities grow and evolve over time, structures come and go with the requirements of society. Through changes over centuries, though, major cities in Europe can still be recognized by their large churches. Enrico Dalbosco (Arrigo Silva, as he is known in the Google 3D Warehouse), a resident of Padua, Italy, understands why churches last and has taken up the cause of showing them off in 3D on Google Earth.

"I have devoted myself to modeling churches because I really like ancient and modern art. Through many, varied periods of time, churches have brought together the highest expressions of artistic skill and their construction has brought together the most renowned architects, sculptors and painters. I think for this reason I am not the only person who is interested in modeling churches for Google Earth and there are still a profusion of beautiful sites of all religions awaiting a modeler!"

Enrico is a retired electronic engineer and has many hobbies including music and photography. He's played classical piano since childhood and is also a fine artist working in watercolor and with ceramics (check out his ceramic buildings and landscapes). In 2007 when, surfing the Internet, he came across Google Earth and was excited to see everything there: sky, fields, roads, houses of Padova, Italy...the whole world, as he describes it.

"What was even more exciting was discovering that here and there on the Earth's surface there sprouted cities, towns, several buildings, monuments, and churches. I wondered, who made them? Was it something I could do too? So I came to discover Google SketchUp. Before that I had never used a 3D package."

Initially, Enrico thought it was necessary to fix all the edges, one by one, entering exact length but quickly discovered that SketchUp took care of scale on its own.

"SketchUp had additional surprises in store for me: in addition to being free (which is a good starting point!), the product has a completely intuitive interface that seems to anticipate what I am trying to do (split surfaces at midpoints, rotation, array-copy, group, create named groups etc.). I must say that I have a thorough knowledge of software usability because of my professional background and SketchUp has one of the best user interfaces I've seen."

In an ironic twist of fate, it was actually Enrico's work with a non-geo-located model, a bust of Beethoven, that most impacted his workflow for creating Google Earth buildings.

"A key learning for me was discovering the power of projecting textures: you can take a flat image and project it onto a complex form. I found a beautiful 3D bust of Ludwig van Beethoven in Google 3D Warehouse, and I sensed that I could 'paint' him, so I found a portrait of Beethoven. I was able to import the portrait as a texture and mold it to the contours in one fell swoop! It was a little miracle, to paint with a single command, and within seconds the countless shapes that made up the face of great musician!"

His first creations were the churches of in neighborhood and the Basilica of St. Anthony of Padua, which proved a challenge because of the complexity of its structure. To address the challenge, "I adopted the old method of the Roman emperors ( "divide and conquer": if you want to solve a problem, split it in several parts...) subdividing the structure into simple elements: the façade, the transept, the church towers, the domes ..." For the photo textures, Enrico searched the web and found lots of photos taken on the ground from all possible view-points. The divided (and conquered!) structural elements can be seen in the graphic below.

Modeling Western religious architecture requires an understanding of the structure of vaults and domes - the "onion dome" characteristic of Orthodox Churches can be particularly daunting.

"Indeed," says Enrico, "the primary challenge that the Cathedral of St. Basil in Moscow posed was its domes: due to their incredible variety of shapes and colors, I couldn't find a single formula to cover all of them, and so I had to adopt different strategies - smooth and relieved domes, colored and textured domes ... it took some experimenting, trial and error, but in the end I was able to create all the varied dome shapes, including the most twisted, of course, always using the well-tested Beethoven method to project textures!"

Enrico expanded his dome-modeling techniques in working on the domes of the Church of the Nativity in Suzdal.

"In this case, I adopted a more complicated strategy: I initially prepared, with SketchUp, a geometric model of each dome (onion with and stars) and then I created a screen-shot which I then projected (once more using the Beethoven method) these texture on the sectors of the “real” domes. I worked really well."

Clearly, Enrico is pushing the boundaries of what is possible and how ornate and beautiful models for Google Earth can be. It's a revelation!

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lkligge said...

Enrico's models are some of the most beautiful I have ever seen. Good job "Arrigo Silva"!

Anonymous said...

He is the one that could be achieved such efficiency in those models.
I think Enrico must be called "The Master of the Domes".
Really an excellent job.

Unknown said...

I think he should have been featured sooner :) I can't imagine trying to work out some of those onion domes.
Great work!

Aerilius said...

Truly a master! He models a selection of buildings, which he drives for perfection. I opened some models in SketchUp and can confirm that each single texture is a work of art, that has nothing more incommon with photomatched textures.

tomcioZG said...

Very good and refined models. World class and one of the best models in 3DWH. Congratulations!

Unknown said...

The church models made by Arrigo Silva are the Best of the best! So its great that he is now a Featured Modeler.

John said...

The Moscow cathedral and St Petersburgh church models are far and away the best models on Google Earth. Enrico has made the quantum leap of extruding profiles into onion dome shapes then projecting, from verticaly above, beautiful spiralling geometric coloured patterns/'photo textures' on to these beautiful shapes. And the fortunate man lives in Padua in Italy too so can take further inspiration from the works of Andrea Palladio. Five stars is not enough.

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Giuliano said...

Italians rule!

Anonymous said...

"I must say that I have a thorough knowledge of software usability because of my professional background and SketchUp has one of the best user interfaces I've seen."

Doh! Yes, the interface is _different_, but far from being "best". Makes me wonder about your background, man.

Plus, SketchUp can be one stubborn donkey when it comes to "going".

And! I think those domes were figured for you by the community, n'est-ce pas?

Dhaussy said...

En français ... "LE MAITRE", sans doute le meilleur des modeleurs, et le plus pédagogue, Merci et Bravo

Dhaussy said...

"LE MAITRE" pour tous les modeleurs, une maîtrise parfaite et une grande pédagogie!

Dhaussy said...

"The Master" for all modelers! Models impossible to achieve .... and he explains just how to do! Very teacher, thank's for all of you, we owe you much!

熊出沒的3D世界 said...

Great works and designers

William Webb Arquitecto said...

I love the work he has done!
I would love to see a tutorial on mapping architectural elements such as the domes..

Fotos de San Sebastián said...

Los modelos elegidos por Arrigo, tiene la virtud de ser muy coloridos y atractivos, de ahi su exito.

Tiene merito su apuesta por estos modelos, pero están muy seleccionados para hacer un fuerte contraste con el resto de la galeria.
Son edificos que a la mayoria de los modeladores se les "indigesta" al tener curvas complejas. En realidad la problematica se define en un problema de "mapinng", Arrigo lo ha hecho a la perfección.

En cuanto a las explicaciones técnicas, mi opinión es que son muy claras y muy bien presentadas, arrigo es un gran diseñador,muy trabajador y gran profesional.

Los modelos son de lo mejor, pero hay modeladores del mismo nivel y tambien modelos muy buenos o superiores en complejidad.

Arrigo es pionero en 3dwarehouse por su mapping ¡¡ ha marcado un antes y un despues ¡¡

Ese es el nivel de calidad que me gustaria ver en google earth, para todos lo modelos.

Yo por lo menos soy uno de los que lo intenta..

A ver si lo hacemos todos¡¡


Unknown said...

Sono semplicemente meravigliosi, complimenti.