PaperBridge Environmental Art

This project caught my eye. Sure, it is designed to catch the eye, but I mean it was interesting enough to look up what is going on.

PaperBridge by Steve Messam is “a temporary artwork” and very “site specific”. It is apparently successful, having supported 7,000 hikers walking over it.

Technically, it is nothing more than a keystone arch (see: Roman Empire), which stands via compression of the building blocks. It was built just like the Romans did it 20 centuries ago.

The technical novelty is that he used paper, which we are used to considering flimsy. Of course it isn’t, as anyone who has to schlep around boxes of paper knows very well.

I get that part of the joke. Its fun to build something big and rugged out of paper!

The “site specific” notion is a little stretched. I mean, any fixed object is ‘site specific’ in a way. He also makes a big deal about sightlines and whatnot. I can’t really judge, but from the photos it looks to me like the site is nothing but sightlines—it’s flat, bare, and you can see a long way from everywhere.

Still, it definitely draws you to it, and gets you to come and be there. As the catalog says, “Access is by foot only.” You have to be there.

Generally, I don’t like “environmental art” all that much. It’s basically graffiti, and I like nature as it is too much to like human interventions. Messam’s work is temporary and will be removed, so that’s not so bad. Still, a bright red foot bridge is not really that attractive, is it?

If this gimmick got a few more people out of the city and walking the trails, then good. But it isn’t really an improvement on site, in my own view.

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