Reconstructing a piece of a puzzle

In the province of Groningen (Netherlands) a large number of stately mansions, which go by the name ‘borg’ in Dutch (plural ‘borgen’), have been demolished in the 19th and early 20th centuries.

A small number of these interesting buildings has survived and is now part of our cultural and architectural heritage.

Within the context of a cultural education project I am trying to create a reconstruction of one of these houses. I use Luxology Modo 302 for this task.

Here are a couple of pictures of the work in progress. Most of the detailing is being done right now. Lots of windows and shutters to model!

The only thing we have left from this building with its long and interesting history is an empty stretch of land, marked by the remains of the mote, and the defensive tower, still standing. We can trace its building history through archival documents and images on old maps, engravings, a painting in the Groninger Museum and a stained glass window. I use an image from 1843 as the basis for this model, combined with a plan that has been drawn in 1899.

The original nucleus of the building was formed by a steenhuis. A steenhuis (stone house) is a typical phenomenon of the northern Dutch coastal region (and the neighbouring German region, now Ost Friesland), they were houses built in the middle ages by the important and the powerful using brick while all other building was done in a combination of mud, straw, and wood. A steenhuis was comparatively big, measuring about 8 x 11 m on the surface, while a height of 15 m was not uncommon. So they must have been really visible landmarks (as the remaining ones are still today), confirming the power of its owner, and when things went wrong the envy and aggression of their opponents! The steenhuizen were not unlike the medieval towers we can still admire in Italy. And their faith was similar. We are lucky that many still survive in San Gimignano, but nearly all these family towers in Firenze and Bologna have disappeared too. The  Northern Dutch steenhuis was polyvalent. It could house a family in times of peril, but also served as a granary, or as a temporary place to stay while managing ones distant property. 

Many steenhuizen were at some stage more or less enveloped by a cluster of additional buildings. In some cases the original tower-like shape got lost altogether. So many of the once-existing and still remaining borgen somehow evolved from these towers. Ewsum was also built around a steenhuis. This is a feature which is not visible now. Since I use 19th century material for the basis of this visualisation I will add this older nucleus later in the process, probably working with cutaways and partial transparencies to clarify the structure.

As a whole this visual is not meant as a scientific reconstruction, it is purely educational, showing something which has been lost, but also showing how such a structure came about.

More historical details follow.


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