“Pneu History: Re-Completing the National Monument of Scotland” is an ongoing palimpsest of work with each iteration (AR filter, essay, structural analysis, interview, physical model, browser-based video game) further agitating and mending its original source: the National Monument of Scotland.
The National Monument of Scotland began as a popular 1822 proposal to build an exact replica of the Ancient Greek Parthenon atop Calton Hill in Edinburgh to commemorate fallen soldiers of the Napoleonic Wars, however when construction ended in 1828, only a fragment of the initial proposal crowned the hill. The partial Parthenon is seen as a failure so severe that the monument has since been known as “Edinburgh’s Disgrace” and “the Pride and Poverty of Scotland” even to this day. The structure’s fragmentary status as a “ready-made ruin” causes it to be a projective device for shifting Scottish national identities in ways a more complete monument never could.
In the summer of 2021 for Architecture Fringe, the cast of characters atop Calton Hill in Edinburgh were accompanied by an additional set of holographic members. As AR paper-maché to the National Monument of Scotland, pneumatically-rendered historical initiatives to complete the ready-made ruin sidestepped strict governmental regulation of the area, the monument’s status as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, COVID-era travel restrictions, and other material and fiscal constraints. A trio of proposals (catacombs for national heroes, an extension of the National Gallery, and a full Parthenon replica) were revived and rendered in digital soft body geometries under simulated pneumatic pressure. Shiny particle-spring based statistical membranes of white and blue pixels—the colors of the flag of Scotland since the 16th century—provided stark contrast to unadorned Craigleith stone. The three follies initiate an irreverent digital pageant that collides the Neoclassical with the contemporary in a spectacle of mutual absurdity.
The ready-made ruin of the unfinished monument requires a palimpsest of perpetual repair: mending seams with structural analyses, commemorating failed inflation attempts with AR graves, repatterning meshes as sewn pillows and sliced PLA prints, and most recently, creating variations in pressure from users in distant browsers.