First Renders of the St Kilda Blackhouse

I never thought I’d hear myself use the words “sexy” and “bad-ass” to describe a blackhouse, but after weeks of working with texture-less wireframe models my St Kilda blackhouse was lit and rendered for the first time today.

Wireframe model of the blackhouse

As I watched the software computing the final gather points (a process which sees small squares dart across the screen as the image below becomes less and less pixellated) and the scene rendered in front of me, those were the only words that seemed appropriate!

Watching the scene slowly render!

This is always my favourite stage in the modelling process, when everything starts to looks real and you as the artist can begin to add those little touches to make a scene feel authentic, lived in and…well in this case cosy! In my research I’ve talked a lot about how the process of reconstruction affects the integrity of not only the captured record (in my case laser scans) but the integrity of the archaeological evidence itself.

First lighting test, loads of things still to be fixed…but warts and all it’s still exciting!

Up until this point I’ve not felt like my decision-making with the model has had much of an impact on the archaeological record in terms of accounts of life on  St Kilda, excavation reports and academic papers etc. The modelling of the basic blackhouse structure was fairly straightforward, I adapted instructions on blackhouse construction from a text on the Arnol blackhouses on the Isle of Lewis to St Kildan specifications and filled the structure with appropriate artefacts. Simple and relatively accurate.

However, I’m now at the interesting and somewhat controversial stage  of building authenticity and a sense of place into the scene. I want to tell a story with my visualisation, and in order to do that I need to use a bit of artistic licence…this is where it gets good! More updates to follow in the coming weeks.



  1. Jon Whitmore · · Reply

    The images look great. Nice work. You should call them the “sexy” St Kilda “bad-ass” Blackhouse pictures! This has given me a nice break from trying to write an essay about social and nutritional ideas and practices of food consumption.

  2. Ha! Thanks Jon, hope the masters is going well 🙂

  3. Wow I love it! Are those just textures applied in Max or from the scanner camera?

    1. Hi Amy! It’s just materials I applied in max, took a lot of texture photos when I was out there as we didn’t use the photogrammetric camera rig inside the blackhouses, just externally!

    1. Haha, cheers Mills, you have no idea how chuffed I was to be able to finally use the teapot that came with 3ds max!!

  4. Ewan Campbell · · Reply

    Looks great! Like the welly footprints on the floor, but perhaps not authentic? As a boring querny person, why just the upper stone of the quern?

    1. Haha, I was hoping no one had noticed the welly boot print! It has now been discreetly covered with a fireside chair! As for the quern stone, I think my prior knowledge of how they work was lacking! Admittedly a bit of a thick moment on my part I now see that I’ve confused quern stone and pestle and mortar in my head….this will be fixed! 🙂

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