Site Selection

I was searching about the relationship between scaffolding and the buildings in New York and stumbled upon news about how most New Yorkers hated scaffolding. I found out that there is an ordinance known as “Local Law 11” which requires all buildings over 6 stories in height to have their facades inspected every 5 years. The law is so burdensome that some buildings simply leave the scaffolds up between inspections since they know they’ll have to repair something soon, changing its temporal state into permanent. The law created many discomfort to the citizens and tourists as they cannot appreciate the façade, it also creates safety issues around the neighbourhood. However, the law is likely to be amended from time being.

Scaffolding was first mentioned in 1899 during the industrial period. At that time, I believe the construction industry were less stringent in terms of safety and hence there were photos recorded how the construction workers are treating these scaffolding like their own playground. So I was thinking how I can incorporate scaffolding and playground to change the negative perception of it.

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For the site, I’m looking into Brooklyn area. Brooklyn has many layers of history, particularly during the industrial period when sea transportation flourished, many different races of immigrant migrated into Brooklyn which shapes its multicultural characteristics. Brooklyn also once grew and supplied food to NYC.


The site I’m selecting is Vinegar Hill. Vinegar Hill today comprises a six block area that stretches from the East River waterfront to Front Street and from the Brooklyn Navy Yard to Bridge Street. Due to its location just adjacent to the navy yard, this neighbourhood once housed the Irish immigrants who were workers in the Navy Yard. It then went experienced a second industrial growth and attracted many other races including the Germans, English, African Americans and Italians which then open to more different industries.

“Here in Brooklyn there is always the feeling of the sea. On the streets near the water-front, the air has a fresh, coarse smell, and there are many seagulls. One of the most gaudy streets I know stretches between Brooklyn Bridge and the Navy Yard. At three o’clock in the morning, when the rest of the city is silent and dark, you can come suddenly on a little area as vivacious as a country fair. It is Sands Street, the place where sailors spend their evenings when they come here to the port. At any hour of the night some excitement is going on in Sands Street. The sunburned sailors swagger up and down the sidewalks with their girls. The bars are crowded, and there are dancing, music, and straight liquor at cheap prices”

A crucial decline was in the beginning of the 20th century when large part of the area was demolished to make way for factories and warehouses, which formed a large physical barrier between the neighbourhood and the waterfront. I find this place interesting is that there are no traces of this area being a rich cultural area, it reminded me of the Fashion Street in Janet Cardiff’s walk, without the additional sound effects the listeners will never know it was once a Jewish area.

I’m trying to draft the layers of history in axonometric drawing of Vinegar Hill and will then transferring into cad drawing. Hopefully I can find some old maps as reference to compare with the current map to see what has been removed.


One thought on “Site Selection

  1. Your discovery of “Local Law 11” leading to scaffolding being left up as a permanent addition to buildings presents a suggestive temporary / permanent tension. Layering the historic images of Vinegar Hill is a good strategy to get started on the drawing but start to bring in the present condition of your site too. What structures or elements from your historic images can still be found on the site? Does this create a physical ‘join’ between the past and present and how can you show this in your drawing?

    How will thinking about scaffolding as a playground progress the work that you have done so far? Does this relation lay in an interactivity or adaptability of the joints and structures that you are investigating? The artist Nils Norman has made studies of ‘adventure playgrounds’ across Europe the US and Japan and how their lack of being fixed and their interactivity sets them apart from other types of playground. This short talk might be of interest and points towards examples of playgrounds created by architects

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