Gabrielle Kesign Design Consulting
Traditional and Computer Aided Design and Graphics
Los Angeles, California, USA, Terra, Solar System Sol, Milky Way Galaxy, Local Group, Virgo Super Cluster, Local Universe

Computer Modeling and Rendering
Not-Leaning Tower of Pisa

Note: I started this page with the expectation to finish the project quickly, then got called away to more important jobs. I will get back to this in time.
Like most people, I'm intrigued with the Leaning Tower of Pisa. The tower was built in at least three phases, with the tower leaning more between each phase. Each time construction resumed, the builders attempted to build each new section straight. By the time the next phase started, the tower had leaned more, and the new phase was again built straight. The result is a tower with a curving centerline. I like order and I've always wondered what the Straight Tower of Pisa would have looked like. So, I decided to build my own - in Computer Aided 3D Model form. Straight Tower of Pisa

Constructing the Straight Tower of Pisa

I began my construction project by scouring my Art History books and the Internet for information on the tower. I found conflicting information, heights varying by ten feet, and pixilated photos. I decided on the height given by the majority of the sources at 185 feet and a base diameter (excluding columns) of 51feet-6 inches. I found a section on a web site that looked accurate, if pixilated. Having designed Classical Architecture for two major motion pictures, I relied on experience and reference materials for fill in where the pixilated detail photos fell short.

Main Mass of the Tower

I started a drawing in AutoCAD© and inserted several raster images for reference and adjusted the size until they looked about right. I also rotated the images so they approximated a straight view. Since the tower was built in phases with each phase temporarily vertical until the tower leaned again, there is no way to straighten the popular tourist views showing the lean. If I had the money to travel to Pisa, I could take my own photos 90 degrees from the popular views and they would look relatively straight. AutoCAD sometimes has trouble displaying a raster image in a drawing with z coordinates, so I used this drawing only for 2D drafting and designing of the profiles that later would be extruded into 3D.

I drew sections of the tower, columns, arches, and other details.
I divided the section of the tower into 8 parts, one for each level. Ths allowed me easily replace one section should I discover better research and want to revise a section. This will also make it easier to adjust the sections should I choose later to make the Straight Tower of Pisa lean. Further, this allowed sections to be turned on and off by placing them on different layers for a less confusing view. Revolved Solid
I then copied the 2D profiles to a new drawing where the 3D solid extrusion and revolves was performed. I decided to work with AutoCAD© solids because I wanted to use the Boolean tools to cut windows, doors, and the flutes in the columns.

Now was time to cut the windows and doors. I found a web site with photos taken of the circumference, every two columns, for each level. In Photoshop, I joined these into mosaic views showing the full height spaced around the tower. From this reference, I located the openings on my master 2D layout. The flat top openings were easy.

I simply made a box at the correct angle. The arched top openings took the extra step of creating a
Revolved Solid with Openings
closed polyline, rotating it to vertical about the y axis, and then extruding. In standard construction using flat walls, I can use a box as thick as the wall, but these walls curved which required the box to overhang. I made these deeper than the thickness of the walls and centered them. Once these outlines were copied and pasted into the 3D layout, I was able to subtract them from the main mass to produce the windows and doors. For added effect, for the bell openings on the top level, I made two extrusions, one with a 7 degree taper and larger than the second extrusion. This created a tapered wall and a step before the straight wall.


After some consideration, I decided the best way to handle the arches was to include the mass with the primary solid revolve, then subtract the negative space within the arch from the solid. So I went back to the 2D drawing and worked out the arches until they looked right to me. I brought these into the 3D drawing and extruded them, including a taper of 7 degrees for the top level. I polar arrayed them. Then I subtracted the arches from the solid. I also added temporary columns. Because these were Main Structure Finished
blocks, I could permanently place the columns, yet automatically update later once I had created the detailed final columns. At this point, the major blocking was complete and it was time to start detailing.
Base Level Top Level


April instalment.
There are two ways I considered to make the columns. One would be to make a simple mass and apply a map of the flutes. I preferred the challenge of actually modeling the flutes which also allowed close-up views and more accurate shadows. Image here

Bells and Rail

May instalment.

Moldings and Details

June instalment.


July instalment.

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