Modeling an orthogonal pavillion

From TOI-Pedia


The building we will create in this tutorials is one of the follies of Parc de la Villette in Paris.




Maya Interface

Basic information on the interface, including navigation, can be found in the Quick start with Maya.

Placing and adjusting primitives

This folly has a cube of 10.8m x 10.8m x 10.8m as base and consists of smaller cubes of 3.6m x 3.6m x 3.6m. It is build up out of columns filled with square facade elements.

We will start with creating the shape of a column. Basically, a column is a rectangle and can be made with one of Maya's basic shapes: a cube.

Make sure that you turn off Interactive Creation for the course of this tutorial, before you create your first object.


Return to Create » Polygon Primitives » Cube to create a cube.


A cube with the dimensions 1 x 1 x 1 unit will appear at the origin of the grid. If you click on the object to select it, you will see its properties in the Channel Box on the right side of the screen.


In the Channel Box you can adjust some of the properties of the cube to the right sizes. We can now turn the cube into a column with the dimensions 0.3m x 3.6m x 0.3m. These are the numbers we use for the scale x, y and z. Furthermore, we will put the translate y at 1.8 (is half of 3.6, because the cube will be moved from its center) to place the column on the grid.


In the same way we can now create and place two of the beams. Create a new cube and give it the right size. Note that the length of the beams, 3.6 meters, includes the thickness of the column. To create a beam in the z-direction and the x direction we use the following translations and sizes.

ColumnBeam x-dirBeam z-dir

(T=translation, R= rotation, S=scale)


You can create and adjust other primitives in the same way.

Be aware that the size of cylinder and cones is related to their radius, which causes the height to actually be the double height.

Duplicating objects

We can copy the column and beams we have just created (this is called duplicating in Maya) by selecting them (clicking on one of them, press shift while clicking the others) and going to Edit » Duplicate:


If you have done this nothing appears to have happened, but when you are duplicating an object using this option, the duplicate will be placed at the exact same spot. So if you now move the selected objects by using your move tool, you will see that Maya has created a copy.


We could duplicate and place all the columns and beams like this, but we could also duplicate the objects a couple of times in once and directly placing them at the right spot. First we'll undo the copy we've just made by pressing Ctrl+Z and we select the column and beams again.

Now go to Edit » Duplicate SpecialOption Box. Click on the Option Box, this will make the Duplicate Special dialog box pop up.


Here we can put in how many copies we want to make and what translation/rotation/scaling they should have in respect to each other:

Keep in mind that the settings you put in here will stay the way you set them to last when you close the dialog. The next time you use the duplicate option the last used settings will be used again.

For duplicating our column and beams into the basic grid of the folly we need a translation of 3.6 in the z-direction (because the length of the beam is also 3.6 and we want a perfect connection) and we want that to happen 2 times.

Make sure you use the right axis for the translation.


Click the duplicate special button and you will see the duplicates appear.


We are still missing the column and beam at the end, we will duplicate these by selecting the column and beam before that one and using the same duplicate settings, but only making 1 copy.



Next we select this entire row of columns and beams and duplicate them with these settings.


The translation is in the x-direction and there will be 3 copies made.

This will lead to the following result:


We don't need the last row of beams, so we will delete those. Just select them and press delete. We have created the bottom layer of cubes. We now select all these columns and beams and duplicate them in the y-direction to give our structure the right height.


Which will give us this result:


We have now finished the basic grid of our folly. If we go ahead and duplicate and delete the elements in a smart way we can create the entire framework of columns and beams.

First, we are going to make the extension with the two layers. We select all the beams and columns that we need.


Now we will duplicate these selected objects with the right translation in the x-direction. Keep in mind that we want to translate these objects over a distance of 2 beams! So, we use 7.2 for the translation in the x-direction in stead of 3.6.


This way we made the whole extension at ones. The lowest part of the folly has only 1 layer. We select the right beams and columns for our duplication.


We have now selected the second layer, but we want to duplicate it to a first layer object. We have to make a translation in the minus y-direction but also in the minus z-direction, because the object has to move back one row.


The final result of our frame work now looks like this.


Our last step to complete this basic model is to delete the columns and beams we won’t need (the red ones in the image below).


After deleting these objects you will notice some holes in our structure at the intersection of columns and beams. We will learn later on how to repair this. The basic model of beams and columns is now completed.

Duplicate019.jpg Duplicate020.jpg

Make sure you don't have multiple duplicates laying over each other or that your objects are not overlapping, this will cause dark stripes on your geometry when rendering an image.

Placing and adjusting with the snap options

We now want to place the big cylinder. First we will create this object with a polygon primitive.


The cylinder is created in the midpoint of the grid (0,0,0)


We give the cylinder the right size in the channelbox. The cylinder is 7.2 wide (x and z scale) and 1.8 high (y scale). This might look strange but the size of the cylinder is related to its diameter. So the actual height of the object will be 3.6, which is story height.

Then we need to translate the object onto the grid, which is a translation of 1.8 (3.6/2) in the y-direction.


We could now place the cylinder on the right place by using the channelbox, but there is also another way and that is by using the snap options. You can find the snap options in the status line at the top of your screen (see Quick start with Maya for more information).

We are going to use point snap. We want to place the center of the cylinder at the corner point of one of the columns. To do this we will turn on point snap (because we want to snap to the vertex of another object) and we drag the cylinder with the move tool in the direction of the corner of the column.


You can use the arrows of the move tool for this, or you can click in the middle of the move tool and drag the object in the direction of the column. Keep in mind that with this last method you are moving in all 3 directions. You will see that the object will only be snapping to corners of objects:

It might be easier to press 4 on your keyboard to switch to wireframe, that way you can see where your object is snapping to. The point that will snap is the pivot point and that is standard the centre point of your object.


We can now snap the cylinder to a column, but as you can see half of the cylinder is now below the grid again. That is not what we wanted. We want to snap the middle point of the bottom of the cylinder to a columns. To do this we need to place our pivot point to that point.

You can move an objects pivot point by selecting the object and press the insert key on your keyboard. This will detach the pivot point from the object and can now be placed wherever you want (even outside an object). You may notice that the pivot point gets another look; the plane handles disappear and a sphere will appear. This way you will know you are in ‘edit pivot mode’.

If you're working on a Mac, you don't have an insert key. You have two options:
  • Use Cmd + (left-arrow)
  • Press and hold d
Maya edit pivot on.png

Because our snap to point is still active our pivot point will also snap to all point when it is moved. Drag the pivot point with its y-axis to the bottom of the cylinder so it will snap to the middle point at the bottom of the object. By only selecting the y-axis the other axis seem to disappear and will return again when you let go of the y-axis.

Maya edit pivot on.png
Maya edit pivot constraintY.png


To attach the pivot point back to its object we press insert again. Now you will see that the cylinder will be moved with the bottom as base.


Now we can snap the cylinder to the correct column (2nd from the left, so that the edge of the cylinder touches the column on the front-right edge).


Using hierarchy, object and component mode

In the previous tutorial we have shown how to place and adjust an entire object using the snap options. It is also possible to move only a component of the object. As an example we will make a closed facade element out of a cube by adjusting only its components.

First we will create a cube and we will place it with its corner point at the corner of the right column (see Placing and adjusting with the snap options on how to do this).


Next step is to select the cube and to go to component mode, which you will find in the status line at the top of your screen (for more information see Quick start with Maya)

We want to move the points on the right side of the cube now to the column next to it, so we need to select these. To do this, we need to make sure we can select the components vertices, you can do this by turning on the vertex selection next to the component mode button.


When you are working in component mode the selected objects will be blue, the component points purple and when you select them the will be yellow. To select the corner points you can drag small windows over the points. You can select them all at ones, but with shift you can add points to your selection (or take them out of the selection).


We want to move all 4 of the vertices to the right side. Make sure you have the move tool selected and point snap is turned on. Now pull the red arrow (x-direction) and you will see the points will snap to ever point in that direction. Let go when they snap to the column on the right. Note: if you move points in the opposite direction of the arrow make sure you don’t turn an object inside out.


We will repeat this with the 4 upper points to snap them to the beam above. Select those points by dragging a frame around them, but make sure your earlier selecting isn’t included as well.


This time drag the green arrow up to snap these points to the right beam. We have now closed the hole.


Now we only have to give this facade element the right depth.


This can be done in the same way. Select the 4 corner points and drag them to the column.


We have now made a closed facade element.


Earlier we saw after deleting some of the beams and columns that we made some holes in our frame.


We can close them now by editing some beams and columns in component mode. Select one of the beams, select the corner points, the move tool and make sure point snap is activated and snap them to the next beam.


Same for these columns at the back of the building.


We can select all 4 of them and select the corner points of all 4 and snap them in the y-direction to the beams.

Comp013.jpg Comp014.jpg

Modeling openings in the facade with booleans and combine

We have finished making the closed facade elements, but there are also a lot of windows in this folly. We are going to make those now.

We will first create the shape of the window, in this case a cube. Move the cube to where you want to make a window. Let’s start at the left corner of the building. Here we find a long, not so high window. Place the standard cube.


Take the scale tool an give the window the right size. You can also type the size in the channelbox. We know the panel is 3.3 wide, so if we want a window frame we should make the window hole e.g. 3 (that is the x-direction).


This shape will be subtracted from the closed elements, so make sure the window cube is sticking out of the wall at both sides.


Making this hole is called Booleans in Maya. For a booleans operation you first select the object you want to make the hole IN and then select the object that will make the hole (using shift).


When both object are selected in the right order go to Mesh » Booleans » Difference.


This will have the following result


We can now duplicate this facade element with the window hole and make all these facade elements in stead of boolean all the windows in every single facade element. Try to use the methods we have explained before. E.g. use duplicate special with the right translation, or use duplicate and move the new objects with pointsnap.


If there are multiple windows in the same wall (like on the first floor) it is possible (and a lot quicker) to create them all in once.

First you have to create the shape of one of the windows and then you can create and place all of them out of that one easily by using the duplicate option box (see Duplicating objects).

Let’s make the facade elements on the first floor. Create a new cube and give it the right size (if you don’t know any sizes you can always use the scale tool to make the ‘right’ size by sight). We know a element is 3.3 wide, we want frames between the windows of 0.15 and the structure, so we have 0.9 as size in the x-direction and 0.45 in the y-direction.


Make the whole grid of windows by duplicating this first window. Be smart about it, so start with the first row, and then duplicate those until you have 6 rows in total.


The booleans command can only subtract two objects, so now we made all these windows we have to 'combine' them into one object. You can do this by selecting all the windows and then go to Mesh » Combine.


Now all those cubes are made into one object. You can see this by looking at the color of the selected object. It is green, and you may have already notices that when you select more then one object one is green and the rest is white.


If we now select the element and the combined windows we can do another booleans operation. Again, make sure the window cubes stick through the element to have a successful booleans.


You can now duplicate this wall and use them again. Now you can almost complete the whole facade with the three elements we have made so far; a closed one, one with a long small window and one with a grid of small windows.


Creating faces using the create polygon tool

It is also possible to create geometry in another way then with primitives. One of the methods is to create geometry through creating a face and giving it depth. We can use this for creating glass for the windows. We use the create polygon tool for this, which you can find under Mesh Tools » Create Polygon.


After you have selected this tool you will see that your cursor has changed shape. If you now click in your scene a face will be created between the points you click. We want to create a face exactly in the window opening, so first we will turn on Point Snap.


Now click on the corner of a window and go round the frame counter clockwise! If we click on the corner points of the opening and we see a face being created.


Do NOT place the first and last point on top of each other! To close the face just press Enter


After we press Enter the object changes color and turns green; the color of objects. We have created a plane, an object without thickness.


Select this plane and select the Move tool. You will see that the Manipulator (the arrows) is not in the center of the plane but in the center of the grid.


This happens for every new object you make with Create Polygon and also with some editing options. You can use snap to place the pivot back onto your plane, but you cannot snap to the middle of an object. To get the pivot point back in the center of an object we go to Modify » Center Pivot.


Now we have our pivot point back in the center. Use the blue arrow of the Move tool to push the plane to the middle of the window frame. Now we have placed our glass.


But have only placed one glass panel, so we want to duplicate this one into all the other holes. Use Duplicate, but first move the Pivot Point (using Point Snap) to the corner of the window frame.


Instead of Duplicate Special use Duplicate with the Move tool and Point Snap to place all the other glass panels.


Do this also for all the other windows too.


We have just created a single closed face, but we can also make a face with an opening in it. We are going to make a façade panel with a hole in it without using Booleans.

Let’s go to the right corner of the upper layer of the folly; here is an empty façade element. To have a good look at this element we will switch to side view. Improve visibility of the objects with Shading » Wireframe on Shaded.


This way we can clearly see where the beams and columns are.

We activate Point Snap and choose Mesh Tools » Create Polygon. We start the same way as before, by clicking the corner points but this time, don't close the face by pressing enter.

Faces013.jpg Faces014.jpg

Instead, turn Point Snap off and Grid Snap on (this can be done in between your create polygon operation). Now we are going to make the hole. Press CTRL on your keyboard while clicking the first point of the opening in the face. (It may be easier to press 4 on your keyboard to switch to wireframe mode, so you can see where you are clicking).


Now proceed with the next points of the opening without pressing control. When you are finished close the face by pressing enter.

Again: don’t place the last point over the first one!


If the points of this new plane have snapped to the wrong corners or points you can easily correct this using Component mode, the Move tool and Point Snap like we did with the beams. You can also adjust the size of the window opening this way.


If you are still in Create Polygon mode you can undo a point with Backspace to go back a point.

Now we have created a façade element with an opening in it. What we really want is this for this element to have depth just like the rest of the façade. You can do this by 'extruding' it.

Let's go back to perspective view. Select the face and go to Edit Mesh » Extrude. Make sure that Keep Faces Together is on.


You can turn Keep Faces Together on in the In-View Editor or in the Channel Box (type on or 1).


The face will turn orange and you get a new manipulator. The arrows are used for the translation, the boxes for scaling.


We want to extrude the face in the x-direction, which is, in this case, the blue arrow. We activate Point Snap and pull the blue arrow.

By pulling you can give the face its thickness. Using Point Snap gives you the opportunity to use the thickness of the beams as your guide. If this is not possible you can enter the wanted size in the In-View Editor or Channel Box under Local Translate Z. While pulling the arrow you can see this number change. The thickness we want is 0.3.


Only pull the face in the direction of the arrow! Otherwise your object will be turned inside out. If you want to extrude the face in the opposite direction of the arrows extrude it in the right direction and then move it back using snap.

If you look in the menu bar you can see your now in Component mode. Switch back to Object mode.


Use the Create Polygon to make the glass for these windows.

Removing and editing components of an object

With everything we have learned so far we can edit the cylinder and give it thickness, a roof edge and windows.

Change to Component mode. Select the cylinder and select the Select face components icon (fourth from the left).

Select faces with whole face Select faces with center

Depending on your preferences you can select a face on two different ways. If you see square dots in the center of your faces, then folow the chapter #Selecting by face center below. If not, then folow chapter #Selecting by whole face further below.

Selecting by face center

We can now select the top and bottom faces of the cylinder by dragging frames around them and pressing shift. The easiest way to do this without selecting faces you don’t want to select is to navigate your view to eye height, go to wireframe mode and drag a window over the top of the cylinder, press shift and drag a frame around the bottom faces.


Selecting by whole face

You can select from top view by dragging a frame inside the cylinder.


Or you can select the whole cylinder form a side view and hold shift when dragging another frame only over the side of the cylinder.


If you want to change the selection method of faces, open Windows » Settings/Preferences » Preferences, from Categories choose Selection and finally choose in Polygon Selection: Center or Whole face.

We have now selected all top and bottom faces, they’ve turned orange. Delete them.

Faces026.jpg Faces027.jpg

We are going to give the cylinder thickness using extrude. Select the side faces and select Extrude.


Give the cylinder a thickness of 0.3 (type this value in the In-View Editor or Channel Box under Local Translate Z).


The cylinder has now a thickness but no roof. We are going to make the roof using Create Polygon and Point Snap. Go back to Object mode, activate Point Snap and select Create Polygon. Go round the inside of the cylinder and create a new roof.

Faces030.jpg Faces031.jpg

Select the roof plane, center the Pivot Point and select the Move tool. Use Point Snap to move the roof down and snap under the beams.


We have now created the roof edge of the cylinder.

To finish the cylinder we have to make the windows in the façade. We will use Booleans to make the façade opening.

Create a new cube, place it roughly at the right place and scale it a little bigger.


Go to the top view, select the cube and go to Component mode and turn on point selection.


With Point Snap on we are going to give this cube the right scale. We want the right points to snap on the third line of the cylinder.

Drag a selection frame over the points on the right and select the Move tool.


Select the red arrow and move your mouse in the direction of the third line from the right. The points will snap parallel to that line not on its corner points. This is called Constrained Snap.


We do the same thing on the left. Select all the points (keep in mind that this is the top view, so each point is actually two points), select the red arrow and move your mouse to the first line on the left of the cylinder.


If your cube is not sticking through the cylinder edit more points until it does.


Go back to perspective view and Object mode. Move your cube so that it sticks through the cylinder, but do not move in the x direction.

If you are happy with its placement select the cylinder, press Shift and select the cube and go to Mesh » Booleans » Difference.


Now we have made the opening in the cylinder


If we look closely at the images of the folly, we see that the glass doesn’t follow the curve of the cylinder, but is a straight line.

We will make this glass façade element using Create Polygon.

Select the Create Polygon, and activate Point Snap. Zoom in on the left corner of the hole we just created and start your new face there. Second point will be in the upper corner of the hole.


Navigate to the other side of the hole and click your next point in the upper corner, and your last point on the corner below.


You have now placed all the point so you can press Enter.


Now we have created our glass façade, but as you can see, there is a hole between the glass and the roof. We will fix that in Component mode. Go to Component mode, choose point selection and select the to upper points.


Select the Move tool, activate Point Snap and drag these points up to snap to the roof.


Now most of the exterior of the folly is finished.


Modeling a winding stairs with the duplicate options

The last thing we have to model is the winding stair on the right side of the building. Start by making a polygon cube that will be a step of the stairs and give it the right dimensions. We will make your step x=1, y=0.15, z=0.25. Use pointsnap to place it on the side of your cylinder and rotate it around the y-axis with -27 degrees.


Now we have a basic step to proceed working with. The other steps we won't all create separately, but we will duplicate this basic step with a translation in the y-direction and with a rotation, which will create the winding stairs to be created almost automatically.

Before we do this we have to move the step's pivot point to the center of the cylinder, because we want the step to rotate around that point so the stairs follow the outside wall.

Select the step and press insert to detach the pivot point, turn on pointsnap and move it to the center of the cylinder, then press insert again to fix the pivot point there. Because we have made our roof with the create polygon tool it is a little difficult to find its center. But we remember placing our cylinder with its center point on the second beam from the left, so we will place our pivot point there too.


Select the step again and go to the Edit » Duplicate SpecialOption Box (click the option box). Here you can put in all the settings you need to create the winding stairs.


Choose between Copy and Instance: with both Copy and Instance an exact duplicate of the original will be made, the difference is the relation the object has to the original. If you use Instance the duplicates will remain linked to the original object, if you adjust either one, all the objects will be adjusted. If you use the Copy option you can adjust them separately without the rest automatically changing in the same way. For this stair we are choosing Instance.

Now we will put in the right settings for the stairs. Sometimes you have to try this a couple of times before you find the right settings:

  • The translation only has to be the height of the stairs, so y= -0.15 (the minus is because we are going down making the stairs).
  • The rotation we need in this case is -1.5 degrees around the y-axis.
  • The scale remains 1 because we don't need the steps to become a different size.
  • And the number of steps we will need to reach the ground will be 23.


When we have entered all these values correctly, we press Duplicate Special. If you want to check the result without closing the option box than use the Apply button instead of the Duplicate Special button. If the result is unsatisfactory select the view port and press CTRL+Z to undo your duplication and you can make new settings and try again. If you are happy with the settings choose duplicate special and your option box will disappear after duplicating.

The settings you made in the option box of the Duplicate Special command will be remembered by Maya, so the next time you use duplicate the same settings will be used!


You see the stair is following the outside of the cylinder beautifully.

This already looks quite alright, but if we take a closer look we will see that some of the corners are still sticking out.


We also want the bottom to be smooth, so we will have to adjust the stairs in component mode. We will also see now why it was so useful to duplicate the steps as instances, because now we will only have to adjust one of the steps and the rest will automatically have the same adjustments.

Select a step and go to Component mode. Make sure the Points selection is turned on and that Point Snap is activated. We will start with selecting the point at the right side of the bottom step.


We want these points to snap to the left front corner of the steps above. So with the arrows of the move tool we can constrained snap them. First move the red arrow in the direction of the right corner, then use blue to snap to the corner.


You can see that all the steps now connect nicely to the step above them.

We are going to do the same thing for the left side of the steps. Select the points in the back of the steps.

It might be useful to switch to wireframe mode.


Use constrained snap again to move these points to snap to the step above.


All our steps connect to the ones above or below them without any holes. Now we want the bottom of the stairs to be smooth. Select the lower corner points at the front of the steps. Turn of Point Snap and move these points down (about half the size of the step below)

Trap011.jpg Trap012.jpg

We will do the same for the top points of the step below, only now we put point snap back on and snap these points to the ones we have just lowered.

Trap013.jpg Trap014.jpg

Go back to object mode and see that we have made a winding stairs with smooth bottom.


The same way we made this stairs we can also make the railing. Create a cube with the right sizes, place it on the upper step (rotate y=-20, scale x=0.1, scale y=0.5, scale z=0.22). And move its pivot point to the center of the cylinder (the same point as with the steps)


Go to Duplicate Special. You can use the same settings you used for the steps.


To finish it off we will smooth the top of the railing like we did with the stairs. Select in Component mode the upper points and move them (without Point Snap) and move them halfway up.


Now select the other points, activate Point Snap again and snap these points to the ones we have just moved.


We have finished our stairs with railing and our folly.


This is the end result of this tutorial.


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