New Sheds for New York

Yesterday, Mayor Bloomberg and the Department of Buildings commissioner, Robert Limandri, announced the winner of the urbanSHED competition,which, last summer, asked for redesigns of the city’s sidewalk sheds (the plywood constructions that shield pedestrians from exterior building renovations). The winning project, Young-Hwan Choi’s* Urban Umbrella, beat out 163 designs, including those by the two other finalists, the New York firm KNEStudio NewYork and the Massachusetts-based XChange Architects. The DOB promises to promote the design as a new standard, and it’s likely that a trial version of the scheme will be erected soon.

*Clarification: Choi created the initial design; after it was selected as a finalist, he teamed up with Andrés Cortés and Sarrah Khan, of Agencie Group, to develop the final, winning design.

Urban-Umbrella-1

Of the three final designs in the competition, Urban Umbrella seemed the most ambitious— which, in all honesty, made us think it had the least likelihood of winning. City bureaucracies, even in places like New York, aren’t known for taking risks, and the Umbrella scheme, though it’s been thoroughly vetted for structural integrity and cost, is an obvious break from a proven, if drab, design. (There’s also the matter of Choi’s relative inexperience: he is 28 years old and a first-year student at PennDesign.) If it’s ever realized on a broad scale, the new shed will convincingly illustrate that the city is committed to quality aesthetics over safe but generic solutions.

Urban-Umbrella-3

Of course, durability is always a concern with a project like this, and it’s difficult to predict how the Umbrella will hold up to tough weather and tough New Yorkers. But, at the very least, the competition has resulted in an elegant design, environmentally friendly in its use of sustainable materials and urbanistic in its promotion of open (and well-lit) streets. Both the winning designer and the city building department should get kudos for that.

Urban-Umbrella-4Photos: courtesy the urbanSHED International Design Competition. Urban Umbrella design by Young-Hwan Choi, Andrés Cortés, and Sarrah Khan of Agencie Group.

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