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.