No visitor or local in New York City can avoid the city's ubiquitous "sidewalk sheds," those unsightly wood-and-scaffolding structures put up to protect pedestrians during building renovations around Gotham. Whether at the entrance of your apartment building or wrapped around your favorite retail outlet these eyesores are ever-present.
But now sidewalk sheds are getting a much-needed makeover. Mayor Michael Bloomberg recently announced first-year University of Pennsylvania architecture student Young-Hwan Choi, 28, as the winner of the urbanSHED International Design Competition. Sponsored by The New York City Buildings Department and the American Institute of Architects New York Chapter, this design competition sought fresh designs that improve the current pedestrian walkway experience while keeping within current city regulations. It also looked for ideas that were sustainable, weather-proof, and cost-effective with 'sidewalk' appeal.
"The new structures will complement the city's architectural beauty rather than take away from it, while increasing space and safety for pedestrians," the mayor said in a statement. He also noted the re-design is consistent with the city's image as a center for innovation and creativity. City building officials also point out the new design should please building owners because it's less bulky, keeping more of the building in sight while adding more space for pedestrians.
There are about 6,000 sidewalk sheds that span 1,000,000 feet in New York City. The city plans to approve the winning design as a new standard but can do little more than encourage the real estate and construction industries to follow suit. Officials say installing sheds with the new design costs about the same as the current model, but offers savings in long-term maintenance.
Rain or shine, a prototype of Choi's umbrella-like creations should be opening up around the city this summer.