Building Roman Thermae

Building the Roman baths: a joint building project

It all started from the 23rd RA when Gaius and Mizou volunteered to rebuild the Roman baths RA Cooperstone was the then chancellor of the Confederation of Democratic Simulators in Second Life.

A quick look at the finished building

Before I start to detail the story of this building, let’s have a look at the finished building. Here are a few photos of the thermae in situ on Colonia Nova in the CDS (SLURL)

Thermae in situ - the piscina
Thermae in situ – the piscina
Thermae 30.04.2016_006
Thermae 30.04.2016_006
Thermae in situ - the atrium
Thermae in situ – the atrium
Thermae in situ - the caladarium
Thermae in situ – the caladarium

Gaius sets the ball rolling ….

Gaius built a platform right above the current baths at about 630 m height. He gathered photos online of Roman thermae architecture and build a proto type for the layout of baths. (1 img)

Reduced model

Gaius, who is a student in classics, created a reduced model showing the general layout of the new baths, next he built up the walls in their real size on the whole platform.

Thermae reduced model and online images we used for inspiration
Thermae reduced model and online images we used for inspiration

White walls construction 

I was quite impressed with the layout and felt that I could work with the design.

At this stage Gaius and myself were planning to create and complete the building together. Gaius laid out the basic structure of the thermae in plain white walls, after that the texturing and detail of the building was all mine. Gaius needed to get back to his RL studies.

Unfortunately, I have no photo of the white walls stage.

Sorting out the  textures

There were three main textures to create: the pool floor and walls, the marbled floor and pillars, the plaster and brick for the walls, the tiles for the pools and those for the roof.


I created the pool textures first and added the splash-able water to it. Jumping in and out of the water makes a lovely splashing sound!

The thermae 'piscina' and the pool with the floor textured.
The thermae ‘piscina’ and the pool with the floor textured.


The next texture which appealed to me were the pink, grey and white marbles; I was inspired by the Roman architectural images that Gaius provided.


I choose three different types of marble images and made these seamless in GIMP, then created the normal and the specular maps for the advanced lighting.

Thermae pink and grey marble
Thermae pink and grey marble



The second design element  that I prepared was the composite floor texture for the entire building using the marble images created previously. I looked at Roman floor images online for inspiration and then designed  a pattern for the marble floor which was pleasing to the eye.  The normal and specular map were created in GIMP  to take advantage of the advanced light in Second Life.

Thermae marble composite floor
Thermae marble composite floor

I was envisioning the sun light playing on the floor and reflecting the beautiful marble pattern.

Lilith told me yesterday how some SL floors make her feel ‘unruhig’ or uncomfortable but that this floor is easy to look at.

Marble floor with advanced light
Marble floor with advanced light


Windows mesh

Next on my list were the arched windows. I planned to make them out of prims and then to mesh them and add the plaster materials. I ran into a problem with the addition of the materials which the doubled the land impact (Li)

First roof windows
First roof windows

This increase only happened on the thermae land and didn’t crop up again this year, one year later.

We can just blame it on an Second Life glitch!

Roof problems

Thermae : projected roof design
Thermae : projected roof design

The cross sections of the main roof with the windows nestled in them was on my to do list. I tried to fit the meshed Windows/roofs sections into the roof but the slope didn’t match and it was nearly impossible in my mind to design this, so I gave up for awhile …..

Trying to work out the roof with different cross sections
Trying to work out the roof with different cross sections

Long period of no building

It was early summer 2015 and because I couldn’t solve this intricate roof problem I stopped working on the new thermae for a long time.

Getting back to work on the thermae.

Finally it was 2016 April and the 24th RA term was coming to an end as well as Rosie Gray’s CDS chancellorship.  As the CDS official whose responsibility it is to look after the creation of new buildings Rosie asked me if I was working on the thermae rebuild.

Meshing the window opening

Meshed roof windows final look
Meshed roof windows final look

The final roof meshed roof windows are very simple but effective, it streams the light from the high ceilings onto the walls and floor and gives a most beautiful and pleasant effect inside the building.

Gaius was very pleased with the result. In the end a simple solution was the best but it took me nearly one year to come to that decision!

Front door created in Blender

Thermae front door created in Blender 3D
Thermae front door created in Blender 3D

I had created a simple door in Blender 3D a few weeks beforehand and decided to use that door for the thermae. I added a door script, the ‘MOAB Universal Rotator (Builder)- Swing Any Uncut, Rotated Prim On Any Side!’ Sold by Antonius Frentis.

I am very happy with that multi use script.

Entrance Lights

As shown in the photos, I added a light to highlight the door as it will be hidden in an alleyway, on Colonia Nova.

Columns and arches – Windows

– Play of light in the inner space important

In fact I spent a lot of time looking at how the light was playing in the different parts of the building and in the courtyard.

To me the most important aspect was how do the inner space feels while walking around in the thermae; I wanted it to be inviting, comfortable and congenial. I think that I achieved that goal beautifully!

Using the Roman baths in Bath in England as an example

One of my work colleagues went to Bath in England and brought  back some postcards for me to use in the building of my virtual world. I copied the style of the columns reaching into the pool and with arched Windows  at the top.

Postcards from Bath in England
Postcards from Bath in England
Piscina Arcades Inpiration from Bath in England
Piscina Arcades Inpiration from Bath in England

The design concept of the arches, columns, the water of the pool and the windows behind, looking into the atrium, played on my mind I was working in RL so I jotted down this concept on a Post It that I keep on my desk at work.

This drawing settled my mind and that same evening I created the arches, changed the roof size to reach the top of the arches and extended the pillars base into the water. (Img)

It  just drew the courtyard, the piscina and the surrounding buildings into one amenable space.

I sat down at the side of the pool on the steps and admired my work; it was time to go to bed that night. I was satisfied and pleased.



Textures revisited: dirt and grime

Caladarium calydarium? Redesigned

(1 img of blank hot room) I loved the design of the hot room, round with the 2 alcoves, the round steps going down while decreasing in diameter and the opening in the roof to let the steam out and the light in.