Friday, September 29, 2017

Scaled Labour



 The building of scale models is a enjoyable pastime. There is something pleasing about seeing big things in a tinier form. For one thing their overall shape can be better appreciated if we can see them from a kind of 'imaginary distance'. More and more, people are enjoying seeing drone footage for this same 'model-like' perspective. What is useful about models and miniatures however is that an understanding of the method of constructing, say of boats, planes, houses, or almost every sort of thing you can think of, can often better be achieved (and the full scale project be then tackled with more knowledge) if several scale models have been made before the real thing is realized to proper scale.

Dry stone bridges are no different. A lot can be learned about how to build them, and why and how an arch works, when you go about  constructing a model one first. If they are built outside in some natural setting, an imaginary scene can be created too where small crevices in rocks, or spaces between boulders, are made to appear like deep ravines or canyons. This is kind of a magical thing.

When I first saw the deep criss-crossing cracks in the surface of the limestone bedrock on Inisheer Island I felt like I was flying over it, looking down on a vast canyon/plateau landscape. The rugged contour of the Aran Islands has a fractal quality that enables one to imagine the geology on a smaller, or bigger, scale. 

I chose to build my tiny bridge over a 30 cm wide gap I found, which was a natural crack, about a metre deep, running through a slab of bedrock sloping down to the sea. I hoped the miniature would make the ‘gap' look like a life-size bridge spanning a huge chasm. 
I chose a spot far enough from the path that people would not be aware of it unless they were looking for it. Having the bridge too close to the path too would mean people would see it more from directly above, rather than looking across at the bridge, which is how we most often view them.

I used a plastic bucket, wedging rocks in the gap below it, to support it so that half the bucket appeared above the surface of the bedrock.
I had already collected suitable pebbles and all kinds of tiny flat stones, in that very same bucket, along the trail on my walk to the my tiny bridge site.
Both approaches to the bridge (the tails) were built up carefully with thin stones then I laid in a radiating pattern over the bucket form ‘ the centering’ with tiny v shaped stones, laid in proper voussoir pattern. The inside of the bridge vaulting was done just the same way I would do a full scale bridge, but on a tiny scale.

I paved the whole upper surface with one or two layers of thin flat stones. Most of the them could have made good skipping stones if I’d not been in a tiny bridge building frame of mind.
I came back later and landscaped with tiny plants and paved it again this time with gritty sand.
I had brought along my thumb sized, plastic Dr Who on the trip, and pulling him from my pocket, placed him standing by the bridge. It looked appropriately like he had been transported from some other dimension of space and time.


The mysterious miniature bridge was discovered by all kinds of people the weekend I was there on the island. Kids played with Dr Who, walking him up over the chasm and back. Observant curious tourists took plenty of photographs. 

That part of the path became a bit of a favourite stopping place for the horse drawn carts. Visitors aboard could ponder the tiny structure from their seats and perhaps merely wonder why someone would be so crazy to spend all that time making it. I guess it all has to do with scale and perspective. 
While I was making it, time stood still.  I became small enough to explore that small patch of  island bedrock as if I’d shrunk to an Inisheer fraction of my normal size

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