Anyone who's ever been to New York has walked under scaffolding. It's so common and unremarkable that it's easy to miss how much of a dark eyesore they are. They haven't been redesigned since the 1950s.
Not for long though: Mayor Michael Bloomberg has just announced the winner in a competition to redesign the "sidewalk shed." Designed by Young-Hwan Cho, a 28-year-old student at the University of Pennsylvania, the Urban Umbrella won out over 164 designs from 28 countries.
According to the Mayor's office, the function of the design is four-fold: It'll let more air and natural light to reach the sidewalk below; it'll reduce the disastrous effects on businesses that scaffolding causes; it'll increase safety, by eliminating the cross bracing and bolts that people tend to bump into and scrape against; and it'll open up the walkway, decreasing congestion. And all for about the same installation cost of the old-school scaffolds, with lower maintenance costs over time, owing to the simplicity of the design.
The city isn't mandating that contractors will use the design--but rather, the idea is that its obvious advantages will sell themselves. (Which might sound silly, but again, scaffolding is the bane of any street-side business in New York.)
Stepping back a bit, Bloomberg has probably been the city's most design-conscious mayor ever. His administration has reformed building codes to encourage better architecture and greener features; tapped designers to rethink everything from taxi cabs to publicly available data; and hired Janice Sadik-Khan as head of the Department of Transportation, who's been a evangelist for more walkable streets and smarter city planning.