Original 1879 City Plan of Autumn

Look what I discovered while rummaging through old stacks at the Autumn Historical Society. It’s the original 1879 plan of the city! Also known as the Wick Plan, named for architect and engineer Harold Wick, this city grid was developed in a style similar to the L’Enfant Plan in DC with large boulevards criss crossing the city.

I created this map in a vintage style using Illustrator CC for most of the work as well as Photoshop CC for final touches and aging effects. This plan is intended to be my own reference for building the rest of the city. I needed to put the locations I have in my head down on paper .

Many early American cities follow an organic growth pattern because of the way streets were built around farms and cow paths. Cities in the 19th century, however, followed a strict grid pattern to match the planning philosophies of the day. I wanted my plan to fall somewhere in the middle. It had to fit in the context of the period but also allow for flexibility. I don’t want Autumn to grow like New York. Like all city plans, mine will be used as a guide which will probably change to meet the demands of the city.

I discarded the standard numerical streets for something more fun and unique. It was a hard decision because most grid plans include numbers, trees, or something similar in their setup. I’ll let you take a closer look to see if you notice the theme.

The region at the top is considered Old Main, the original section of the city with most of the buildings located along Old Main St. (previously just Main St.). The bottom half at the time of the map’s creation is still open land.

I expect to create more maps in the future with various information like future expansion, neighborhoods, architectural drawings, etc. I really enjoyed researching old maps and working on this, and, at some point soon, I will have it in my shop for sale as a print. Back to the stacks for me to see what else I can find!

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Surveying the Land and Virginian Topography

Each mini project I start seems to warrant yet another big one. The fireplace led to the need for a library and an entire house; the house led to the new website; and now I’m starting a whole new subject, but don’t worry, I haven’t abandoned the other ones.

As the project continues and the story starts to develop, the need for a map and an overall better understanding of the city layout has presented itself. But, in order to even think about the way a city grows through roads and buildings, I needed to first learn about the geographical region since that’s what I’m building on top of.

Virginia’s mountains are the result of ancient tectonic shifts that occurred millions of years ago and have a direct impact on the cultural evolution of the region. The barrier that the Blue Ridge Mountains creates helped to alter the course of Native American settlement, trade routes, and immigrant populations. The “cause and effect” never stops, and it’s the reason why I take a fictional map so seriously. The historical context of how the region developed will and should have an influence on the way Autumn progresses in the future, and like a city that’s been around for a while, it’s hard to change the framework late in the game.

I started sketching city layouts many months ago, playing around with grid structures and buildings placements. I’m at the point now where I needed to start laying down a permanent foundation to build the story, characters, and city on top of. That’s no easy task.

American cities area laid out in vastly different ways, with block sizes and sidewalk widths varying from one city to another and sometimes within their own city limits. What’s the best size? What fits the historical period? Do I go with a grid structure more common to utopist urban planners of the 19th century or more of an organic unplanned style reminiscent of ancient European cities?

The city layout plays an important role in my story so I wanted to take advantage of recreating the linear process that every city goes through, especially earlier ones like New York. New York is famous for its rigid grid structure and straight, long streets. This was intentional and part of the original plan. The Commissioner’s Plan of 1811 was proposed by the New York legislature for the orderly development and sale of land of Manhattan. It is different than L’ Enfant’s Beax-Arts style plan in DC where diagonal streets cut across the city with avenues and parks taking dominance. The layout of a city defines the future soul of the city.

I’ll go into more of my vision for Autumn’s urban planning further down the road, but for now I’m working on the actual foundation, the land itself. Once I started to plan the road widths, lot sizes, and other surveying necessities, I looked to real structures to model. The USGS is a wonderful resource, providing topographical maps and other terrain information. I’m spending some time scouting specific locations, building terrain in 3d space, and double checking to make sure my scale is accurate from the start. From here I can draw a plan with roads and buildings and then let the story grow from there.

This is yet another juggling act. I’m working on some historical back story, geographical construction, and city planning – all with a vision of where the city needs to go in the future. More to come…

Fire Simulation Tests for Fireplace Scene

As you can see, I’ve been playing with fire. I do not mess with fire in real life, never have. This type is completely safe, though!

After Blender 2.71 came out, I decided to try the new fire and smoke features. I put my fireplace on hold for this very reason. Now that it’s out, I’m going to work on the mansion and room at the same time.

I spent way too much time on these fire simulations, but I wanted it to look right. I also wanted it to be accurate. I educated myself on the characteristics of fire – the color range (blackbody radiation), min/max temperature for wood fire, types of firewood, how a flame reacts during its lifetime. I also changed many of the settings in the simulation to mimic the behavior of wood burning, the way the fire coats the log.

This image shows my progression from the top left to the bottom right. Things got a little crazy halfway, as you can see. I had to tone down the blaze!

Now that I have the look and behavior of the fire down, I’ll go back later to improve the fire logs, the way they glow during a fire, and generally place the scene a bit better. These tests just have the walls in place without the accessories I modeled previously.

I would love to see this animated, but with the long render times, I need to move on. As Blender continues to improve and become faster, I’m sure I’ll be able to watch this fire become animated in the future.

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Second Empire Mansion Estate – test7

Moving back to the front of the house, here are the edited porch steps. I thought they were looking too similar to the rear steps with the balustrade continuing down to the ground level, so I converted the railing to a stone-like design and lowered it close to the steps. You’ll be able to notice it more clearly when the materials are applied.

I made a change in design for the newel (decorative pedestals at ground level) to better match the proportion of the railing. Another detail I added, one that adds some visual complexity to the house, is the lattice (the criss crossed area underneath the porch).

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