Brief post on scaffolds

Running through archeology, the historical interpretation of buildings, the study of landscapes, and the explorations of new territories are images, traces, and the after-effects of scaffolds – skeletal structures within which to study some-thing.

Scaffold structures appear on buildings and sites under construction and as staging areas for repairs, but I’m interested in them as sites of study and exchange for what already exists – tools of historical understanding.

In fact, I am beginning to think that if there’s one form that articulates the space-quality of study or research it’s these images of scaffold-like structures laced over, across and within its particular objects of study. Scaffolds offer a potential subject for the experimental historian of architecture and cities.

These structures transform seemingly undifferentiated urban and natural sites into arena of study. They are far more than places that change city spaces into “data” or landscapes into history; I think it’s all much less abstract. Rather they foster a type of social exchange among people – a research chatter that occurs on top of a forest, against a brick wall, or within a pit in some desert.

They suggest something public, although we tend to think of research as a more secretive affair of researchers.

Running through images of certain scaffolders (eg. Yona Friedman, above) we see the scaffold transformed into a more public form. In other words, we might understand the utopian image of the urban scaffold structure (the 1960s efforts of Friedman, Metabolism, Constant, etc.) as sites of urban study instead of urban escape. After all, many of these images emerged when the city was arriving as an intense object of urban geographic study, particularly through the French school of human geography.

Perhaps the scaffolds of today can speak of a twenty-first century space of “study speak” that rivals the nineteenth century image of “culture (art) speak” that launched the public version of the museum.


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