Saving the very old with the very new.

A historic Kent Street building is opening as a high-class Victorian style restaurant. But there’s a few pieces missing to draw Villa Cornelia’s interior together. So, what do you do when the last person to create interior decorations for the building was born in the late 1800’s? And even then, after finding a piece you’d have to find someone to hand-craft it.

For William Komer, the executive director of Campus Creative and general manager of Villa Cornelia, the answer to this conundrum lies in 3D printing.

William Komer in front of Campus Creative.
Villa Cornelia is a short walk away from the Campus Creative office. Photo by Thomas Sayers.

It might seem like a bit of an odd pairing at first, but it starts to make sense in the context of building and detail restoration. He’s been using Campus Creative’s 3D printers and modelling team to create period-appropriate decorations. These pieces are often in short supply – there might be only one available and no way to easily make another one. “There’s vast applications of this modern technology for exploring, repairing, or otherwise restoring the past,” said Komer.

And that’s exactly what he’s been doing. So far, they’ve scanned and printed custom lightbulb covers to look like candles. They’re currently working on digitizing and recreating a bar shelf that needed to be longer. Recently they created a prototype for bathroom signs based on signs that were ori ginally found in the building.

Two signs - one authentic, the other a printed replica.
Can you tell which is 3D printed? It’ll be hard to tell once it gets printed with proper materials. Photo by Thomas Sayers.

Komer said that while the prototypes are printed in a nylon material, they plan on printing out final versions in wood and metal. It’s this ease of creation and recreation that makes 3D printing such an attractive solution. “If one breaks and you need another one, you can just hit the print button. I don’t exactly know how to cut the intricate details of a historic dress out of metal. But I know that we have a 3D design team that can scan and reprint an exact replica.”

But how does it work?

The signs were created using technology called photogrammetry. It involves taking pictures of an object from many different angles, almost like the opposite of a panorama photo sphere. A three-dimensional model is created from these pictures, and the object is officially digitized. The technology has been used to create 3D models for movies like The Matrix and video games like the most recent Star Wars Battlefront.

One of the benefits of this digitization is that an object can be more easily manipulated. Once an object has been documented and stored, it can be opened in 3D modelling software and played around with. “We could take this and do anything with it. We could have the person stick out more or remove the border. You have quite a bit of flexibility once it’s digital,” said Komer.

Villa Cornelia Restaurant, a local gem that’s getting the love it deserves. Photo by Thomas Sayers.

This flexibility makes the restoration process easier for Villa Cornelia. They might only have needed one more sign created, but they would have had to order a few hundred to make a custom mould viable. Instead, they can print out what they need and make changes accordingly. That means a happier planet and happier owners. “There’s a lot less waste involved. If you’re using methods other than additive manufacturing for prototyping, you may have to hit larger production runs before it makes sense,” said Komer.

It helps make Villa Cornelia more authentic.

Villa Cornelia is a visually stunning building from the outside, so it’s only fitting that the inside should match. The home was built in the late 1800’s and is a registered heritage property. It underwent a massive restoration in the 1980’s, bringing it to its current state.

Villa Cornelia is a heritage building.
Villa Cornelia proudly displays its heritage designation. Photo by Thomas Sayers.

The inside is true to the Queen Anne style of the time. It’s been updated with modern technology like Square and Barconnect, their app for ordering drinks to your table. It’s this interesting mix of new technology with older aesthetics that poses a challenge for the owners. But once again, 3D printers make it much easier. “How do you modernize a historic building without it looking like you’ve done so? In terms of surveillance cameras and Wi-Fi hotspots, we’re 3D printing containers to hold them,” said Komer.

3D printing technology has been around for the last 30 years, but has only recently gained popularity. Komer said that 3D printing has become more widespread because costs have come down and awareness has gone up. Recent developments include new materials to print with and more accuracy for printers.

The potential and tech is there – it just has to be put to proper use. Komer brings up the vast potential of a population that makes full use of 3D printers. He tells a story of a customer who broke their favourite umbrella with a seahorse on the end. They were able to recreate it using modelling and 3D printing, leading to a happy person and one less broken umbrella in the trash. “Rather than having to throw stuff out, you can just print out parts to repair things. The sky’s the limit.”

Check it out!

Photo by Thomas Sayers.

Villa Cornelia is located at 142 Kent St. They’re open from 4pm-10pm on Monday to Saturday, with special Sunday brunch hours from 11am to 3pm.

Cover photo by Thomas Sayers.

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