Another epiphany

It dawned on me today that reading David Coke’s beautfiul coffee table style book on the history of the Vauxhall Gardens has solidifed a very abstract idea for me.  Well not an idea more of a skill – a thinking skill.  I mean the ability to read an old document or source and discover things other than what the text actually says.

Coke’s book is written using the same archives that I researched in London and as I have been reading the light globe has gone on several times.  I have recalled reading a particular passage or fact or reference that Coke uses in his book and can see how he has drawn the conclusions that he has.

This mightn’t seem like that big a deal but for an apprentice Historian this is epic!


Is it all just fun?

Several of my friends just can’t believe that I get to play in Second Life for Uni and on the surface it probably looks like its all fun and games, so far I have been laughing off their incredulity but it does beg the question – what educational value does Second Life have for me?  Instinctively I know that it has increased the speed in which I have grasped a way of life from 3 centuries past but how?

Firstly, being a very visual media it suits me – I am a visual learner.  My method of study is to make a diagram out of everything; then it’s in my head for ever, so the process of mapping out the gardens has set it in stone in my brain – not just aesthetically but in a mechanical or logisitcal sense also.  There are reasons behind why buildings and structures are located where they are and these decisions where dictated by various facets of 18thC life; from the technology of the time to social mores all wrapped up in Enlightenment ideals.

The project has also made me more observant and better at scrutinising visual evidence. Looking for suitable textures or details when creating reproductions has made me notice things that I probably wouldn’t have before.  For example the types of table and benches in the supper boxes and that they used table cloths.  That much of the gardens was facade; a visual deception  made with painted canvas and board – in a similar way that I have built my gardens.  Some is just facade and some is interactive.

Making some parts interactive have also made me think about the mechanics or logistics of running the gardens.  How did they keep so many people entertained, occupied or happy?  How did they deal with the English weather?  Lots to think about.

And finally even the technology of SL itself  has helped. When you buy a parcel of land in SL you are allowed a certain amount of objects called prims.  If you want more prims you must pay more, so keeping prims down is crucial when building a large project.  Each thing you create is made of of shapes – prims- the more detailed you make it, the more prims you use.  Its just like juggling a word count in an assignment.  Making decisions about what is important to the project and allowing mulitple prims or what can be facaded – mentioned or represented but not explored in detail.

The Princes Pavillion - reproduction


Texture from engraving Front entrance to the gardens 1751


Back to the Gardens

After a break from SecondLife it’s wonderful to be back in world.  I must admit that at first the idea of creating such a large piece of 18th century London was a little daunting; so I did the “Zen” thing and put it out of my mind.  Worked like a charm, always does.  It came to me suddenly as the Zen thing is supposed to do – create the big picture first then worry about the detail.

First step was to place large general shapes to layout the walks, buildings and boundaries, I call this the “Cubist” phase after the great Cubist painters of the early 20th Century.  It was easy then to just start working on a section at a time.  Which lead me to the next issue…

Nothing remains of the Gardens and there are only 2 photos in existance taken in the 19th Century when the VG was in decline and had certainly been Victorianised.  So what did everything look like?  The answer lay in the numerous engravings that were published in the 18th C.  Printing flourished in this period and the technology to mass print engravings (often reproductions of paintings) meant that multiple images remain from across the century.  So brain wave number 2:  I will use the engravings as textures where possible and combine them with reproductions where not.

So to honour this momentous occassion of breaking ground I had to buy some new outfits, here’s me in my Peacock Queen getup:

Aerial shot of the Gardens so far:

Close up of some of the Supper boxes: