Thursday, October 8, 2009

Der Berg by Exyzt

This is an amazing installation with tube & coupler scaffolding. One of the interesting things about the installation is that it used the scaffolding as both interior and exterior elements. Instead of being used in a "supporting" role, the scaffolding becomes the focus itself. It would have been interesting if the installation created more of a cocoon-like space rather than an object. Such a simple idea, but it's the scale that makes it really interesting.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Scaffold Squatter City

Check out BLDGBLOG's latest post. It's a report on a fascinating project called the Museum of the Phantom City by Irene Cheng and Brent Snyder and sponsored by the Van Alen Institute. This virtual museum is an interactive (via iPhone what else?) cataloguing of possible futures for Manhattan. I just downloaded the app and I can't wait to put it to use. The graphics are beautiful; sites with many possible futures are brightened orbs on a darkened Google Earth map of the city. The app calculates your location and shows you (as a very faint orb - no future for me?) on the map as well. Jackson Heights is far away from any possible future...
One of the speculative scaffolding projects I'm currently allowing to gestate a bit is a hyperbolic future landscape of the city in which scaffolding and sidewalk sheds have been allowed to proliferate without regulation in a city devastated by the bankruptcy of the city in the '70s. Let me back up a bit - and I'm sorry there are not yet any illustrations:
New York in the 1970s was not the gentrified and relatively tourist friendly NYC that we are all so familiar with today. It's an old story, but New York almost went bankrupt. Almost. What would have happened? There was no money for city services. Let's say the ripple effect forced banks to foreclose on thousands of properties in the city. Let's also say that as those buildings began to deteriorate from lack of maintenance, that the receivers of those buildings put up sidewalk sheds and scaffolding to avoid injury to passersby (more out of a fear of lawsuits than fear of fines).

(Ponte Vecchio in Florence. Image courtesy

Like a medieval Italian bridge, we could go on to speculate that these temporary structures would go on to stay in place for years, if not decades, centuries. The squatters in the buildings start to make use of the temporary structures as well, extending the 'private' rooms of the adjacent buildings into the 'airspace' of the sidewalk. Makeshift gardens and terraces appear at first, but then after the first few winters, the more resourceful of the squatters start to weatherize their shelters. Soon there are entire duplex and triplex 'apartments' added to the existing buildings. Without the resources (or the political will) to evict the squatters, a new 'scaffold law' is enacted to protect the homesteaders...

(Trial-Living in Slubfurt by Christian Hasucha)

scaffold a day: downtown II

Downtown Manhattan is like a magnet for scaffolding these days. The photos in the last two posts were taken in ten minutes in a two block corridor along Chambers Street on Wednesday September 29, 2009. There are many municipal buildings in the area. I wasn't able to hang around for a long time (I was downtown for a meeting with the Department of Buildings, an event that could be the subject of its own research and speculation) to see how the installations affected pedestrian traffic. The whole area did have this kind of 'in flux' feeling that reminded me of how I felt after 9/11...I'm afraid I've been too busy to enter the urbanshed competition, but it would be interesting to see if any of the entries deal with trying to change the perception of the scaffold so that it is seen as a protector of urban space rather than a nuisance.

scaffold a day: downtown I