The Design Corps is a platform for the architecture and design community to help small businesses in New York City survive the COVID-19 pandemic by providing pro bono design work. The program has nearly 100 participating architects that have helped dozens of restaurants since the program launched in August 2020.
The Design Corps was created to assist small businesses with Open Restaurants, New York City’s outdoor dining program. Open Restaurants helped resuscitate a struggling industry, gave New Yorkers safe spaces to dine, and transformed streets into corridors of patio umbrellas, beach cabanas and greenery. However, the outdoor dining program introduced new regulations that caused confusion and safety risks for restaurateurs. Many businesses – especially in neighborhoods hardest hit by the pandemic –struggled to pay for creating outdoor spaces. A group of government, non-profit, and design professionals created the Design Corps to help.
Connecting through the platform, some restaurants came to the Design Corps asking for soup-to-nuts assistance, while others had specific needs such as cost-effective heating elements. Typically, the design professionals assisted by translating the technical components of the requirements and helped navigate projects through different regulatory agencies. The cost savings for restaurants varied from $1,000-$20,000, depending on the scope and needs of the restaurant. Many design volunteers went above and beyond the service offering, and connected restaurant owners to the designers’ own networks for discounted materials and labor.
The Design Corps is a testament of what can happen when you bring the design community together. By providing a platform, architects gave their time, expertise, and creativity to help local businesses that were struggling to survive. With a growing membership, the Design Corps continues to work with restaurants citywide, providing quality design and excellence to our city’s streets and working to bring our city back to life.