The Washington Monument's scaffolding and scrim design, installed twice during repairs over the last decade and a half, became a bit of an icon in the District of Columbia. Initially designed by the architect Michael Graves and replicated roughly a decade later, the blue-grey scrim mimicked and amplified the monument's brick pattern, and was illuminated at night.
For photographer Colin Winterbottom, that initial scaffolding and Graves scrim kicked off an interest in shooting at, from, and near scaffolding that has lasted more than 15 years. He says that his shots of the late 1990s scaffolding were inspired by old construction photos of the Eiffel Tower, and he emailed me a link to a photograph.
This poster, signed by Graves, is part of a new exhibition at the city's National Building Museum, entitled "Scaling Washington: Photographs by Colin Winterbottom," which features his shots of scaffolding at the Washington Monument and the Washington National Cathedral. Scaffolding was installed at both D.C. structures to repair damage from a 2011 earthquake.
This installation is not your typical photography gallery show. The museum plastered several of the gallery walls with giant photos and hung additional framed pieces on top, and elsewhere wrapped a panorama around an angled wall. But the star of the show, installation-wise, is a reconstruction of a piece of Monument scaffolding and scrim by Universal Builders Supply, the company that installed the scaffolding both times. At the museum, visitors can get up close to something only known from a distance. Coupled with the news of Graves' death last week, the installation of the Graves-inspired scrim is a little prescient.
"We have a homage to Michael Graves in the gallery right now," says curator Chrysanthe Broikos. "[It] kind of gave us chills." She explains that the installation was planned and in place before the news broke.
The exhibition also includes shots of rope-access workers high above the city, as well as many abstract shots of the two structures and a stunning time-lapse of light from the National Cathedral's stained-glass windows.
"Scaling Washington" runs from March 21, 2015 through Jan. 3, 2016, at the National Building Museum in Washington, D.C.