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Entries in scaffolds (8)


Sara Barker: minimal stories

Sara Barker Conversions 2011 Steel, aluminium, various paints 215 x 115 x 65 cm

A different kind of minimalism, Sara Barker's work is dense with allusion and allegory based on framing absence.  The frame, by definition a marginal element, carries all the responsibility of the witness, and in Barker's work the frame is usually incomplete.  Slices of painting, normally the surface that carries meaning, are partial stories so removed from a full narrative to be just single words or lines, without context.  Yet they are bound together in a construction that captures the meaningless space of the gallery, or the studio: one feels that in their installation, wherever it might be, what is being framed isn't the story at all, that the frames hold the key to a story one must participate in without knowing what it is.  This is magic and mysterious. 

Here is a 2013 video from the Baltic in which she discusses the spatial nature of the construction processes, and shows some very large and complex works:


Richard Wentworth: the ladder's shadows

Richard Wentworth. 35°9,32°18, 1985. Steel and aluminum, Tate Gallery T07168


St Basil

St. Basil's cathedral, 1554. Restoration scaffolding, 1968

Found this 1968 photograph of St Basil's Cathedral undergoing a restoration.  Evidently during the Soviet era, the backdrop for news reports was generally one of the other more utilitarian modern faces of Red Square, but today its polychromed glory is the ubiquitous backdrop to anything coming out of Moscow.  

Somewhat surprisingly, for those of us who have never been there, this is a brick building, built in 1554. Previous churches throughout Russia and on this site had been wood, probably much like this one from the mid-1700s.

Richard Davies, photographer: Podporozhye, Arkhangel region, Church of St Vladimir , 1757

During a 1955 restoration of St Basil's, a wood frame was found inside its load-bearing brick walls.  This would seem to indicate that the long tradition of stud or stave churches (that date from the late 900s) was used as the internal scaffolding for the new, aggrandised St. Basil's.  It is, they say, a veritable textbook of experimental brick work.  The traditional tall thin volumes of Russian Orthodox stave churches suits brick well: spans are narrow.

St Basil was something of a mendicant himself, something his beautiful but gaudy presence on Red Square belies.


scaffold skins

Todd Architects and Civic Arts/Eric R Kuhne. Titanic Belfast section, 2010

Found the steel plate in a section of Titanic Belfast.  Ships, the sea, icebergs: lots to work with here.  In the 1970s going by ship was still the cheapest way to cross the Atlantic.  The last crossings were made by the Baltic Steamship Company, with the MS Alexandr Pushkin in 1980 and Polish Ocean Lines' MS Stefan Batory in 1988.  They were wonderful boats, very soviet, classless but strict social divisions between crew and passengers.  The ships clanked, food and wine was plentiful, one showered in salt water.  

Below is part of Titanic Belfast in construction.  The scaffolding sits lightly, almost a shimmer on the surface, a different system from the building envelope, but that hovers just inches away from that envelope.  There is a romance in this too: scaffolding is the sign of the hand, as it is there for construction workers who are literally hand-making the building.  Scaffold shows; the finished building is smooth and silent when the scaffolding comes down, finished.  Scaffolding is evidence of the process of building – an exciting thing.

Titanic Belfast in construction. Architects' Journal, 9 August 2011


1024, Les Grandes Tables de L’île

Île Seguin, Paris, temporary garden and cafe on the site of a pending Jean Nouvel project.  Plywood box lodged in a scaffold covered in greenhouse panels.  Inside looks like a lunchroom on a construction site.  This being France, they have a brilliant chef, and this being 1024, the building extends itself at night with an array of video and lighting projections. 

1024 have this to say about perennial buildings, which this cafe is not – sitting so lightly on the land, dismountable and untraceable: 'As architects expected to build for eternity we found that the rules and limits of perennial projects are so far-fetched that they often limit possibilities and creativity. The fleeting dimension of our projects allows us to be liberated and open to larger and more stimulating grounds for expression and freedom'.

Instead, 'we use many simple, raw and standardised materials, most often from the world of construction or linked to industrialisation, transport, or packing processes. Scaffolding, containers, timber framework, pallets, nets from sites and thermo retractable plastic (used for mass packaging or in asbestos removal projects)... are found in our 'catalogue' of favoured materials. As for our favoured technology, obviously video projection and more specifically mapping, which consists of projecting directly onto a three-dimensional volume rather than a flat screen, but we are sensitive to all products which generate light, from LEDs and lasers to simple construction site neon tubes'.


Ingrid Mida: construction 

Ingrid Mida. What Lies Beneath, 2010. Mosquito mesh and ribbon on mannequin. copyright Ingrid Mida

Thinking last week about how buildings in construction are always so exciting, all floor plates and breezeways, came across Ingrid Mida who, among other things mostly to do with fashion, has an interest in substructure.  Here, a chemise, corset and pannier worn under an 18th century gown, not literally of course, this is art, but somehow the transparency, the bones and webbing that make a form is always very interesting.

This is what the flat plate shapes drawn out by Diderot for the Encyclopédie lie upon.  Unlike today where the shape of a garment is held in place by the body itself, in 18th century court dress there was an intervening cage that was supported by the body and in turn supported the garment.  It is indeed architectural, this idea that with clothing one makes an inhabitable space and then protects it from the weather, sometimes decoratively, sometimes grimly.


curtain walls and liberty

Assemblage of the Statue of Liberty in Paris. NYPL Digital Gallery, image 1161037Dan Cruikshank danced around Mexican pyramids and an 1851 Colt 6-shooter last night in his Round the World in 80 Very Very Special Places and Things, ending with the Statue of Liberty, which was unfortunately closed to both visitors and potential terrorists.    It reminded me of several of the peripheral features of the statue often forgotten in the glare of its iconograpy.  The broken chain at her foot, the Emma Lazarus poem inviting the poor huddled masses to leave their countries of birth and oppression and come to America, where all are free.   Just before Liberty, Dan went to Monticello, the dark side of which is that Jefferson had 5,000 slaves while writing the constitution that said that all men shall be free.  Dan's taxi-driver was very explicit about what he thought about that.

In Yasmin Khan's book about the Statue of Liberty she describes the skin as a curtain wall in theory, attached to an iron structure which has, built within it, a certain flexibility between structure and skin that protects the skin from stress.  Eiffel and Koechlin designed the structure, rigid enough, and a system of straps that connect the copper skin to the iron armature.  It is this system that allowed the statue to be built in France, disassembled and sent to New York and then reassembled there. 

There is an element of the fairground and the exposition about the making of this statue, a kind of political hucksterism between France and the US that involves the building of the Panama Canal, the revolutionary identification between France and the US, the potential for the US to be a military ally of France in its war with Prussia.  Perhaps it is always this way, but what remains, with this particular project, is a reminder of the deep contradictions at the heart of the USA.


Gehry's skins

Statue of Liberty under construction. | Linda Smeins. Experience Music Project, Seattle, 2002.

Açalya Klyak wrote in On Site 9: surface about the similarities between the construction of the Statue of Liberty and Frank Gehry's Experience Music Project [Rock and Liberty].  Both use sheet material to cover curved volumes: in Bartholdy's statue, copper was hammered into shape (repoussé), and in Gehry's project, sheet material is cut into shapes small enough that they can smooth over a curve, rather like fish scales. 

Klyak notices the historic relationship between drapery and wealth – there is an extravagance to drapery not found in other kinds of clothing.  Drapery, compared to tailoring, cannot be standardised, or even repeated.  It is fluid and slippery and depends on the structure beneath; it is not structure itself as is the tailored hunting jacket.  In her article Klyak felt Gehry's draped surface was entirely appropriate to the expense of the project, even calling it 'Versace for buildings'. 

It is interesting that after the publication of Diderot's Encyclopédie which revealed to all hithertofore arcane and guarded methods of manufacture, and after the revolution, which the Encyclopédie had philosophically anticipated, complicated garments fell completely out of fashion, in favour of drapery.  It is the way of fashion, once anyone can have it, it is no longer very interesting.  It has taken twenty-five years for the odd angles and diverted planes of Gehry's early work to become de rigeur for almost all new not-very-expensive commerical buildings: the meaning and reference for shifting off axis, for bending skin away from structure has long been lost and we are faced with style. And thoroughy tiresome has it become. 

Anyway, back to the Encyclopédie and the French revolution, the Statue of Liberty as a gift from liberated France to liberated America, the liberation of skin from structure – Eiffel engineered the iron framework of the Statue of Liberty, le Corbusier's second point in Vers une architecture – the free façade.  There's a thread here.