Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Monday, June 22, 2009

baby steps

My first time lapse video!  14th Street between 7th and 8th Avenues.
This is from photos taken during the process of gathering information for my NYSCA grant proposal.  I know it's pretty rudimentary, but it's a small step in the project!

Sunday, June 21, 2009

scaffold a day: dutch kills (l.i.c.)

37th Avenue near the N train

Here, the sidewalk was completely closed off, so there was no need to erect a sidewalk shed to protect passersby.  It's also a new building, so there is no public access required to the site.  This site is on the border between an industrial zone and a residential zone; there was almost no pedestrian traffic, so closing the sidewalk seems to have had little impact.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Gussied up

This is an introductory email post!

See how the shop owners have tried to make the best of the sidewalk shed by adding plants to the posts!  That's not a street tree sticking out on the left.  The neighbor actually messes it up with the "GOING OUT OF BUSINESS!" sign...

ad hoc interview

I just had a very informative telephone conversation with Brian Webb, the founder and president of Avontus Software. His company has developed solutions for shoring, scaffolding and formwork applications. I asked him in particular about adoption of CAD by the industry and about whether parametric modeling might have any place in the design of scaffolding systems.

Mr. Webb explained that innovations in software as a design tool are being realized more in the forming industry, where software has been developed that can work with existing CAD tools to design formwork that in his words "will not fail."  In other words, the design drawings for the concrete are imported into the software and the design and calculations for the formwork are automatically generated.  In the scaffolding industry, CAD is mainly used in place of the drafting table to facilitate documentation that is delivered in much the same way as it has always been.  Avontus provides a suite of "blocks" from the major scaffolding manufacturers for its customers to use in the design of the scaffolding.  The software company also provides software that will aid in the calculation of loads as well as generative software for laying out and design of curved scaffolding installations, however most design and calculation for scaffolding loading requirements is still done the old fashioned way.  One reason for the slow adoption of newer digital technologies is that until very recently, large markets such as New York City's didn't even require installers to submit drawings of planned installations.

In Europe, explains Webb, the standard for general construction scaffolding is 'tube and coupler' systems (see photo above) as opposed to the 'frame' systems prevalent in the U.S.  European software companies have developed tools to design these systems, which are labor-intensive to install, but offer much more flexibility in accommodating often irregular site conditions.  This deserves more research.  Might there exist software that can automatically perform parametrically to optimize these installations using a standard kit of parts? 

Saturday, June 6, 2009


I've seen scaffolding and sidewalk sheds all over the world.  Instead of being disappointed (as most seem to be) at not being able to see some monument or another, to me the scaffolding is a sign that the building or monument still lives as a part of the urban fabric.  The scaffolding indicates an embracing, both literally and figuratively; it imprints the human scale onto an object.  It is part of the life cycle of a building or monument.  Men (and women) have to physically reach every part of the building in order to first build it and then often to renovate or clean it.  In addition, it alters the space around it.  Because it is temporary, it can be a more ephemeral extension of the building or monument itself.  It blurs the hard line of the exterior because it provides incomplete shelter and for stability it must also attach itself and essentially become part of the 'host' structure.  I remember being entranced when, in the late 1990's, the architect Michael Graves was hired to "design" the scaffolding to be erected for the renovation of the Washington Monument in the nation's capital.  He said in an interview at the time, "I thought it was a great chance to give back to let's say an eight-year-old who comes from Des Moines with his parent or her parents to see the Washington Monument, and then discover that indeed it's covered with scaffolding -- what could you do to -- to somehow give them something that they didn't expect, give them two monuments -- the original monument, of course, and then this new scaffolding to sort of highlight or amplify the question of restoration.”  You can see more of the original interview with Michael Graves here; but what is interesting is that several visitors were also interviewed in the same article and they expressed disappointment that the monument was covered.  Why do we see scaffolding as ugly?

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

ad hoc infrastructures infrastructure

Trying to build some momentum here...there are still many open threads, but for now I'll just report on some progress in the NYSCA project. As of the beginning of April, I have the equipment necessary to do the scaffolding study mentioned in posts from last July. See here. This is the time lapse package provided by Harbortronics (image above from their website).