I spent a good chunk of my time in the building engineering world bashing my head on construction scaffolding, mainly because the scaffold bars were placed just high enough for me to get under without ducking—sans hardhat—and just low enough to catch that hardhat I was (luckily) always wearing. (Full disclosure: I’m not someone who learns from his mistakes.)
You’ll see scaffolding wrapping up buildings around the world; the use of bamboo in Hong Kong is most impressive, if terrifying. Part of one spire on the Kölner Dom (Cologne Cathedral)—like any random old thing in Europe, at any random time—was under scaffolding when I went a couple of years back, the gear jutting out like a modern, singularly un-Gothic barnacle, a real distraction from the cathedral’s otherwise potent impact:
Access and weather protection for construction work can take all kinds of forms. When living in Kyoto one summer, I saw an entire, huge superstructure installed over top of the Nishi Hongan-ji temple. Last week in North Vancouver, I saw a much more modest set-up sheltering a considerably younger building; this scaffolding did pretty much the same job as the faux structure erected over the Kyoto temple:
Another construction site in Japan (a demolition, tellingly) featured a skin installed over the scaffolding that also mitigated sound transmission, to reduce annoyance to the nearby suburban neighbours—I was at once impressed and pissed off, since I had previously dreamed of someday inventing a similar, magical fabric. I don’t have a picture of that one, but here is a scaffolding sign commonly found on Japanese construction sites, whose politeness you’ll never see echoed in North America: Sorry for the disturbance!
Another cool innovation is the use of printed imagery on the scaffold netting, to reduce the aesthetic eyesore during construction. This one is over l’École militaire, near the Eiffel Tower in Paris, as seen in May this year; my European ex-pat experts tell me this is common across the continent:
At the end of the day, we need to wrap up buildings in order to construct and repair them; whether I’m bashing my head on it or not, I’ll always be curious about the scaffolding, not to mention what’s going on underneath it.