What Color is This? Modeling the Women’s League Cabin

I can now safely say that I’m most of the way to completing my model of the Women’s League Cabin (WLC). While I don’t face the challenges of representing a building that is difficult to model due to its sheer size that a lot of other students do, the WLC is still a challenging building to model, because it is much less well-documented than many other campus buildings. I’m familiar with the cabin from a project done in another class, archaeology (much of which is documented online at Archaeology in the Arb), and was aware of this challenge going in to the project. However, I didn’t truly realize how contradictory and limited the available information about what the cabin looked like is until I started modeling.


While it might not seem so at first, these two blueprints are remarkably different–especially once one starts taking scale into account. Based on the excavation I was involved in, the first blueprint is much more accurate.

For example, it didn’t take long for me to realize that the various blueprints (which I already knew contradicted each other) also entirely contradict what can be seen in the photographs. But I have to use the blueprints to get a basic shape of the cabin, because the photographs I have available only really show two sides of the cabin! Due to this, I think my experience with this modeling project was actually more similar to freeform drawing than most.


The best two photographs available of the cabin–but they only show two sides of it!

One of the surprising things I discovered is that it can be incredibly difficult to effectively render a symmetric building from photographs. When using “phototrace,” I kept on ending up with a building that was much larger on one side than the other! Ultimately, I traced the most accurate blueprint of the house (as determined by the excavation of the WLC site I participated in last year) and combined that tracing with one of the most helpful photos to create the best rendering I could.

After that, I discovered that color was one of the surprising areas of challenge, because I have never found a single color photo of the cabin! I also have found the Sketchup tools used to modify color within patterns or textures (such as the one for the wood cladding texture I’m using for the main part of the cabin) are not intuitive in the least bit, so I’m going to need to look up further tutorials on how to modify colors–and then make guesses as to what color different parts of the cabin were! Perhaps I’ll look up photographs of what treated wood looks like after 10 or so years in the Minnesota winter.

Without further ado: screenshots of my start at modeling the Women’s League Cabin!

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A view of what the photomatched image looks like. Note that the length of various areas is not quite as it seems on the photograph. I think that’s due to the angle the photo was taken at. However, actually tracing all the lines on a photo results in a very asymmetric house which I created several times and looks like the screenshot below (which led me to scrap that version of the house):

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Something here is definitely not right! Just using the photograph to trace the image resulted in a number of houses that looked like this, not like anything a self-respecting builder or architect would create as a functional cabin.

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I’m rather proud of how the back part of the cabin looks, especially because I don’t have much photographic evidence to go off of.

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The mysterious side of the cabin basically doesn’t exist in visual memory–which is why a project like this is so cool! But the lack of any pictures to guide me also make the entire process rather frustrating.

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The most “iconic” view of the cabin from the side. This shows the parts of it that are the closest to being finished (although all the doors and windows still need work, and I anticipate changing the colors significantly for the final version.)


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