Embracing the vernacular of NYC sidewalk sheds, we proposed using the system as an armature for public programming.
There are currently 8,278 sidewalk sheds covering roughly 308 miles of New York’s sidewalks. These hunter green tunnels are long narrow zones where the city’s construction economy literally reaches over public space. Often weathered and carelessly constructed, these structures are notoriously ugly, dark and uninspired spaces.
Given the opportunity to rethink the typical construction fence and sidewalk shed, it would be natural to start from scratch, but in response to an RFP from Alloy Development, we proposed to embrace the current vernacular. Working with the standard system, we explored ways in which it can be used as an armature for public programming, improved upon and used sculpturally. In this way, the project seeks to relate to sidewalk sheds throughout the city and stimulate conversation around their latent potential.
As an initial modification to the shed system, we propose to replace a number of the plywood fence and parapet panels with a heavy-duty translucent metal mesh. These translucent panels would allow for greater visibility while continuing to provide safety for the public. In a similar way, we also proposed to replace portions of the sidewalk bridge corrugated decking and wood planks with perforated metal walkway planks to allow for more light to enter the space below.
Working with the expanded kit-of-parts, we would then work with both types of panels (opaque and translucent) to create location specific moments of light and visibility around the construction site as well as an overarching gradient pattern which varies the qualities of the perimeter space over the 500 foot length of the Downtown Brooklyn site. We would also use the system to create a sculptural pavilion which will extend from the construction fence running along Schermerhorn Street. By building the pavilion with the same system of components, the extent of the small pavilion structure will be difficult to define and both visually and programmatically extend out to the larger construction site. Likewise the construction fence and sidewalk shed will be connected to a space for public programming.
What is presented in the following drawings and renderings is only the first phase of a project which will evolve and blossom over three years of engagement and collaboration with the surrounding community. It is an open armature which can receive artwork, design studies, equipment and furnishings. It is a platform with varying degrees of solidity and built with components which can be easily reconfigured or entirely replaced. We have ideas for how it may be used, as shown in the above rendering, but we look forward to seeing how the community will activate the project in ways we cannot yet imagine. To facilitate this engagement, in addition to awarding a design commission, we recommended that Alloy earmark a portion of the project budget to programming partnerships and appoint an ongoing project manager and community liaison.