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French buildings 1930s & 40s - how to work out dimensions?


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Does anyone here have any data, or know of sources, on how to identify French buildings (mostly town and village types, not cities.) dimensions? I'm trying to identify/measure the heights of the first, second and three storeys, plus general roof (from gutter) heights etc. Same for doors, windows and stable doors etc.

The plan is to make a couple of buildings in a French town or village setting, as part of the allied move through France 1944, but need these details in order to make the walls and fascias to scale etc.

cheers

Mike

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I occasionally make buildings for model railway layouts.

From photos, there are aplenty on internet, ; if there is a door, depending on building; a town house I reckon on a regular front door to be about 6 ft 3 inch to 6 ft 6 inch. Some cafe doors are taller, I take them at 6' 6" to 6' 9", small cottage size doors to be 6 ft. I estimate according to the look of the type of building and from my experience of the real ones.

I also use any figure in the picture. A soldier; I use 6ft, a young civilian about 5' 10', elder civilian or woman, about 5' 6" or even less.

Using these sort of measurements I estimate the main dimensions of a building.

I print out a copy of the internet photo, and using a ruler, workout the dimensions in 'number of doors' or 'height of person', on the photo, then transfer that to a drawn plan, and regular feet measurements.

eg. on an oblique photo of main house in a village you can see the front door, the building may be 2.8 doors high plus the frontal aspect of the roof slope appears to be just over 1.2 door high. Its a quality building so the height is 2.8 x 6ft 6in, the roof is 1.2 x 6'6".

F

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Thanks, yes I've seen loads of photos but the figures I've seen didn't appear to be directly beside the buildings, hence I couldn't make a positive assumption on dimensions.

Your details on the doors is most helpful. I've also used the similar methods for measuring other items such as hangars and masts but I've used drawing programs rather than print out and ruler. I find a 'known' reference point and then cut/copy that element and move it around the rest of the image to identify lengths and widths etc. The problem I'm having with French/European buildings, up to the end of WW2, is not knowing their building dimension rules. If we could identify what their architectural standards were then it would be easy to work out building dimensions from photo's including oblique views.

cheers

Mike

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The problem I'm having with French/European buildings, up to the end of WW2, is not knowing their building dimension rules. If we could identify what their architectural standards were ...

I think that's your problem. Building standards in all countries are a 20th-century feature and, in most cases, very much post-war. In addition they've only ever applied to buildings erected after their introduction. The vast majority of buildings in the 1930s and 1940s would have been erected long before that and conform to no standards other than the builder's skills. Plus, of course, very little was actually built in the 1940s because everyone's attention was elsewhere.

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As Seán said, there are no standards - apart from Paris where M. Haussmann set out very strict rules!

Most small town/village/rural buildings were constructed with whatever came to hand. The harder the material was to work the more it would be left in its natural size. So if the local quarry produced blocks that were about 45cm high, then a door aperture would be about 1.9m (i.e. .4 blocks plus mortar)and a door would be made (on site) to fit.

I live in a French house, built about 1720. Every window on the ground floor is a different (but similar) size and height from the ground. Nothing is a right angle. Nothing is particularly straight. But it works ;).

I think Black Knight's approach would be good. Any variation between buildings would simply make it look more believable!

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Thanks again.

........... of course, very little was actually built in the 1940s because everyone's attention was elsewhere.

Sorry, I meant pre-war buildings.

I'm already working on Black Knight's advice to see if I can produce something workable

Thanks again everyone

Mike

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Mike - if you need some reference photos of some typical French village or town houses let me know what you're after and I'll see what I can come up with.

Brian

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Thanks Brian,

I'll have a look at the extent of my project (early days) and let you know. I am keen to know about the buildings around and, possibly with a 30km range from Arromanches. The idea being I'd like to do a diorama of vehicles in or passing through a town or village in that area. It may even be around the outskirts of such, so possibly anything like that.

Another query, do you know of any sources of maps depicting that area at that time?

Thanks again Brian

Mike

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Hi Mike,

I'm quite a bit further south - between Poitiers and Limoges - and the buildings round here have a very different look from those "oop north".

I don't know of any specific map sources but there are quite a few museums devoted to the 1939-1945 war and all the ones I've visited have had good maps of the local area. Maybe a short holiday beckons?

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