Arco dei Fileni, Lybia 1941/42, 1:35 Scale, Scratchbuild

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  • Last reply 4 days, 14 hours ago
  • Arco dei Fileni, diorama, Horace, Lybia, North Africa
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  • Michel Verschuere said 2 months, 3 weeks ago:

    Hi All,

    While reading a book on the North African WWII theatre, I bounced upon this picture.

    It shows a Pz. Kpfw. III Ausf. H rolling towards the frontline with the British in 1941. This time, the tank in itself did not interest me most, but the monument behind it…

    The monument was erected in the mid 1930’ies and then opened on March 16th 1937 by Il Duce (Benito Mussolini) himself. It is called the “Arco dei Fileni” (Arch of the Philaeni) and marks the border between provinces of the Italian part of Lybia (Tripolitania & Cyrenaica) at that time. It arcs the infamous coastal road near the Lybian coastline between Ras Lanuf and Al Agheila much battled during the conflict in Northern Africa. The building was designed by Florestano Di Fausto and constructed from travertine stone, of which most of Rome was built.

    I started to investigate a little more and found an interesting legend tied to it. Two brothers from Cartago were buried alive there by the Greeks of Kirene to mark the border of Cartago. You can find more on this link (French):
    or (English):

    I decided to build this arc as an architectural model in scale 1:35th. It often appears in b/w pictures taken during the WWII action in North Africa as you can see here:

    The arc was often used as a flight control station for the airstrip nearby, in fact both sides did so during the North African campaign.

    The Planning Phase:

    Unfortunately, I could only get three dimensions online for this monument. The actual one was blown-up by the Lybian dictator Kadhaffi in 1974 as it represented to colonial past to him. Today, there is nothing left of it but the bas-reliefs and the bronze statues of the Carthagean brothers. I had to measure relatively from these few dimensions on a set of pictures I could find. I summarized everything in a set of pencil drawings allowing me to start with the engineering of the build.

    Most of the info and dimensions had to be inferred from pictures like these:

    The Build Phase (ongoing):
    I started to build the main frame of the building from hardwood out of the department store (cheap), making sure I bought straight ones for my money. I decided that starting with the inner arc gave most guarantees to keep everything straight and perpendicular:

    Today I also added the slanted sides in two steps:

    When this is dry, I can start covering the frame with sheeting of 2mm balsa.

    For me the most difficult job on this one will be the sculpting of the two statues and the bas-reliefs. I think I will sculpt the brothers’ from green stuff and Fimo. I’m not yet sure how to make the bas reliefs. Maybe wood engraving could do the job? Any ideas?

    The monument was featured of a latin verse by Horace: “ALME SOL POSSIS NIHIL URBE ROMA VISERE MAIUS”, which means “Almighty Sun, may you never look onto a city greater than Rome”. I already printed them with my 3D printer (one side thus far):

    Hope you like it thus far, I will keep you posted!

  • Michael E Rieth said 2 months, 3 weeks ago:

    Very ambitious project. I’m hooked.
    I would suggest Apoxie Sculpt if you can find it. It can be shaped with a wet finger and dries hard.

    Aves Studio – Maker of Fine Clays and Maches, Apoxie Sculpt, Epoxy Putty and More

  • Louis Gardner said 2 months, 3 weeks ago:

    This is going to be a fantastic project………….. I’m hooked too !!!!

    I never knew this monument existed. It has a fascinating story that goes with it……………. Looks like you’re off to a good start.

  • Michel Verschuere said 2 months, 3 weeks ago:

    Thanks Louis @lgardner and Michael @mrieth for your help and encouragement. I will try Milliput to do the job on the relief, only disadvantage is the short setting time. I first focus on the build itself.

    Today, I finished the two entrances to the North and South of the Arc. I used Balsa of various thickness to finalize the shapes in the various pictures. Below is a picture taken from the inner side of the South entrance to wards the North entrance. Also I added a picture taken in perspective, to be compared to the original photograph. I am glad it starts to look more like the real ting now.

    Tomorrow, I will try and add sheeting to the central part of the Arc, stay tuned!

    Happy modeling!

  • George R Blair Jr said 2 months, 3 weeks ago:

    Wow, this is one of those builds that turns into a quest. Looking forward to seeing it when you have finished. Do you plan to add vehicles?

  • david leigh-smith said 2 months, 3 weeks ago:

    Michel, as a modeler of a certain esoteric flavour, I really connect with that sentence, ‘I bounced upon this picture’. I can see exactly why it inspired you and how the lines and form spoke to you. You clearly like these tall, elegant structures.

    In terms of the relief, I’d go for Fimo, it’s pliable, has a nice texture, can be sculpted even after ‘baked’ (if you take it out after just a few minutes it’s really workable and can be finished off when you’re happy with the form).

    The work you have done is executed beautifully and I love that south to north perspective shot. With paint and weathering this will be a truly unique project.

    Very much looking forward to seeing more.

  • Michel Verschuere said 2 months, 3 weeks ago:

    Thanks for your words and suggestions, David @dirtylittlefokker and George @gblair. Yes you may be right about Fimo, I worked with it before when sculpting figures for the 1:35 M107 Howitzer. Fimo only hardens in the oven, so you have full setting control. Good idea my friends!

    Yes I plan to add vehicles if not just to indicate the sheer size of this tower. It was almost 100ft tall and was a true landmark in the, otherwise flat, desert.

  • Louis Gardner said 2 months, 3 weeks ago:

    It looks like you have nailed the entrances………….. Spot on.

    Great idea to add vehicles. This had to be an amazing sight to see out in the middle of the desert. I’m sure that it was visible for many miles.

  • Michel Verschuere said 2 months, 3 weeks ago:

    Hi all,

    Today I started the sheeting job on the Arc interior. This is the most intricate work because of all the different surfaces involved. I tried to take some good pictures afterwards for your all to enjoy.

    My upstairs kitchen was temporarily converted into a workshop for this:

    I mainly used the detailed historic photographs (there is basically two that are good enough to work with) to accomplish this.

    One thing I had to keep in mind already in this stage was the fine structure of cut and polished travertine stone. By coincidence, I was in Italy this month and found some buildings with travertine walls. The stone is off-white but has a layered structure (as most crustacean era geological formations have).

    There are subtle lines in the stone offering brown/yellow color variations and dark spots. I am not completely sure how to obtain this effect yet, but already, the main primer finish will be off-white. Also, I made sure that – while sheeting the inner walls – the wood grain of the 2mm balsa was horizontal, so to imitate the layered structure of the travertine covering stones as apparent from various pictures. Comments/views on how to weather the stone very much welcome!

    Here are some more shots, to begin with the current view North-South through the gallery entrances.

    And also some general overview and perspective shots:

    The internal walls of the arc are now pretty much done. There is a void there where the bas-relief needs to come but I plan to install this later.

    Hope you like it!

    Happy modeling!

  • Louis Gardner said 2 months, 3 weeks ago:

    Like it ???? Absolutely !!!!

    This is some amazing work. I have seen travertine stone and it has a unique texture and look, just as you described. Do you think it would be possible to give the wood a very light coat of plaster or stucco ??? Then you could add in the seam lines where the stone blocks were joined together.

    This would give it more of a stone appearance as well. You might be able to use a sponge to give some areas a little more texture, and if there were some little bubbles in the surface, this would again lend itself to the texture of the real stone.

    I would definitely practice on some scrap wood first……………. just to be safe. Until you get the desired effect you are looking for.

    Just a thought…………… I’m sure that you will come up with something that works just fine. What did you use for your Berlin diorama ??? Did it have a similar surface ???

    Just curious.

    You have made some excellent progress. This is coming together nicely…………… 🙂

    The pictures you posted show that you have captured the shape of the structure precisely. The angle of the camera was spot on……………. Well done !!!

  • Michel Verschuere said 2 months, 3 weeks ago:

    Thanks @lgardner for your comments and welcome advice in memory of Berlin.

    Final reveal: The German Air Ministry in 1941 in 1:35

    The Berlin case was different, the stone used for this building had a coarser structure than travertine. For the Air Ministry, the choice was made for “Muschelkalkstein” (German). It is also a crustacean era sedimentary stone but structure and color is different.

    As compared to travertine:

    In Berlin so to say, I first used a standard wood filler, after which I applied a thinned MDF filler as a base coat, to get rid of the vanes in the balsa wood covering (then also 2 mm thickness). After that, I primed the building in white from the rattle can and then used a mixture of sand, black and beige acrylics applied with a sponge to get the desired effect.

    Here I deliberately chose to apply the sheeting so that the balsa wood grain is horizontal. I must do some tests on what works out best but I believe I will first apply a white base coat and then use either oils or acrylics to bring horizontal color variations in. Some dry brushing with white afterwards and chipping the black spots with a sponge may work I think. In any event, we’ll see about that later.

    Thanks for everything, keep you posted my friend!

  • Michel Verschuere said 2 months, 3 weeks ago:

    Hi all,
    After a good night sleep, the sun got up again:

    Today I mainly worked on the sheeting of the arc itself. This was quite a job as the vains of the Balsa had to be directed towards the center. This meant that the arc sheeting had to be added in sections of 30 degrees each. I also added inner lining of the arc out of 0.8 mm balsa, which follows the curvature quite nicely actually. Sorry for the tools.

    The inner arc is now pretty much finished, only the front ridge needs sheeting but I will do that when all else has set. If I find the time, I will start sheeting the sides tomorrow but this shoud go rather quick compared to the work on the inner walls dealt with up to now.

    So long, Michel.

  • Michel Verschuere said 2 months, 2 weeks ago:

    Today, I continued the build, starting with a minor but delicate correction on the arc itself. This had to be done with a contour saw and kept me busy for a while. Right now, everything looks proportional again and there will be more space for the two statues, as should. These statues remain in a small museum in Syrt, Lybia. In the same museum, you can find the remains of the bas-reliefs and inscription tables, but more on that later. Hera are some pictures.

    I first worked around the pavement, extending towards North and South from the central Arc.
    I also finished the front ridge as planned so this part of the work is up for sanding. I will however first add a layer of wood filler, to strengthen the balsa wood. As it is now, one fingernail can scratch or dent the surface as it is very delicate.

    Finished are the two slanted sides North and South of the monument. After sanding the edges straight, I can add the front and back (West and East) Façade.

    Looking good so far. Working on this monument, I can’t help but think it’s a pity this arc is no longer in existence. Even though it was erected under the Italian dictator, I believe it should have been kept as a witness of times gone by. After all, in the colonial era, this monument was on the cover of a travel guide for Lybia (La Libia Tvristica) , like so:

    After all this work, I ran out of needles so I had to stop today 😀

    Other than that, I bounced upon an interesting online article arguing that architectural models still have their worth in the computer rendered 3D graphics era we are in. After all, this is an architectural model, although I will add some vehicles at the very end. So in fact, to me, it is an extension of the armor modeling I’m into. Though I liked architecture all my life, I happened to become a physicist instead.

    A Case for Building Architectural Models

    Cheers, Michel.

  • david leigh-smith said 2 months, 2 weeks ago:

    I studied architecture before dropping out (the math was too difficult and this was the age before the internet) and got into psychology. I know exactly what you mean about modeling, it’s a visceral connection, seeing a three dimensional, physical representation.

    The poster of the Arch is beautifully done. It’d be a nice companion piece near your finished monument.

    Love all those perspective shots, Michel.

  • Michel Verschuere said 2 months, 1 week ago:

    Hi all,
    Today I finally added sheeting to the front sides of the Arc. Starts to look the part! What do you guys think?

    I will proceed with the horizontal caps to the Arc so the center piece is fully finished before I turn to the side galleries.

    Hope you like it!

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