If you have ever visited New York City, you've probably noticed the ubiquitous scaffolding that covers sidewalks to protect pedestrians from construction maintenance above.
Though safe, the scaffolding -- which can stick around for years -- blots out light from the sidewalk, forces pedestrians to funnel into a narrow walkway, and generally turns an external walkway into a cave.
String them across several blocks, and you'll wonder if you're even outside at all.
The New York City Buildings Department and the New York chapter of the American Institute of Architects on Thursday announced the result of their international "urbanSHED" competition to redesign this "sidewalk shed."
The winner: "Urban Umbrella," by 28-year-old Young-Hwan Choi, an architecture student at the University of Pennsylvania.
Young will receive a $10,000 award for his design, which will first be installed somewhere in lower Manhattan.
As you can see in the images above, Choi's airy, well-lit design preserves much more of the sidewalk for pedestrian to walk and eliminates the scaffolding cross-braces that prevent people from getting on or off the sidewalk anywhere but at intersections.
(Why's that a problem? Street parking, for instance.)
Why it makes a difference: There are about 6,000 sidewalk sheds in New York City, representing more than 1 million linear feet. If adopted, the design could change the very face of the city itself.
According to the city, businesses will be encouraged -- but not mandated -- to use the "Urban Umbrella."
Though its sticker price wasn't revealed (the city says it's "in line" with the current model), Choi's design is said to carry lower maintenance costs than the current plywood version and hides less of the building.
For businesses whose profits are falling while they are trapped in a scaffolding cave, that might be all the incentive they need.
This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com