Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Geneology of a Scaffold

By way of introduction, a patronymic was a handle historically used to trace the lineage of a family. Recently, a lone prototype of New York City's renewed scaffolding system was celebrated at 100 Broadway. In finding the skeletal traits of the dubbed "Urban Umbrella" to be prosaically familiar and irreverent, I have traced it's architectural patronymic to support my perspective.

On the father's side:

1851- Urban Umbrella's steel girders had me start at Paxton's Crystal Palace. Located in Paris, this marvel was the birth of Modernism with it's congruent palette of construction. It's prefab mandate would soon give rise to the Eiffel Tower in 1889.

1871- The Great Chicago Fire called for immediate construction opportunities to reclaim the ravished urban landscape. At this point, Modernism immigrated to the USA due to the ease of construction adeptly demonstrated in Europe.

1958- With acclaimed success, Modernism's glass and steel sheath, began to blanket the American landscape. Mies van der Rohe brought the Seagram Building to New York City. "God is in the details" began to proliferate throughout the City.

In tandem with these paternal advancements, the Urban Umbrella's mother was blazing her own trail with a vein of artistic and feminine architectural strokes.

1920- The Art Deco movement presumed Paris. In revolt to Modernism, the iconic Metro entrances began to grace the French urban landscape. This dialogue would too trace over to America by way of the Chrysler Building. I'm feeling a Montague and Capulet moment.

1936-Frank Lloyd Wright would configure the Johnson Wax Headquarters. In true Art Deco tongue, he devised ornate and at once organic, concrete lily pads poised to sustain clerestories to yield high loads. Under engineer's eye, Wright would prove that these columns would suffice up to 60 tons of load bearing material. Visually, the Urban Umbrella most closely resembles this early achievement.

Mom and Dad get hitched:

2011- the Urban Umbrella is born on the streets of New York and is introduced as a cutting edge design replacement to traditional scaffold.

Personally, the designer shoplifted from a century of phenom engineering greats to recycle a concatenation of architectural beauties that leaves me in wonder of the individuality of the design. In lieu of the patronymic, it could be considered a mutt. While it captures an interesting experience to the untrained occupier of the space, it is a mundane cornucopia of prodigal past genius.

I love design that pushes the envelope. Our technology is far superior than our ancestors so, I'm left dumbstruck by design that is so heavy handed in historical rhetoric and uninspirational in it's delivery. A strong architectural patronymic is a fabulous foundation when married with an unexpected turn of routine.

The Urban Umbrella has had me coin a new term, "Trust Fund Design". It has solely relied on the riches of it's successful architectural ancestors and has fallen short of procuring it's own identity within the context of the urban fabric.