Given the strong feelings on the subject, it’s no wonder that alternative designs have sprung up in New York. The firm Urban Umbrella has made a name for itself with its tall, elegant, vaguely Gothic scaffolding.
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Despite being three or four times more expensive than standard scaffolding, which typically rents for $80 to $150 per linear foot, Urban Umbrella’s designs have been popular with customers concerned about keeping up appearances, like boutique shops and museums. The scaffolds can be outfitted with LED lights to brighten sidewalks, and fans to keep things cool in summer. Music can be piped in through Bluetooth speakers.
CookFox Architects took a different approach on a recent project, proposing permanent structures that would do away with the endless cycle of putting up and taking down sidewalk sheds. When DBI Projects, a consultant, organized a design competition for a master plan for Seward Park Cooperative, a residential complex on the Lower East Side, CookFox’s entry included curving canopies, topped by plants, providing shade and greenery while they performed their protective function.
In other cities, sidewalk sheds have taken different forms.
Shipping containers were recently pressed into service in Charlotte, N.C., by Portman Holdings, which is erecting a 16-story office building in the South End district, adjacent to a popular rail trail. To ensure that the public could continue to use the path, 11 of the steel containers, their ends removed, were placed in a row, creating a 440-foot tunnel.
Gensler, which designed the Portman building, specified the colorful patterns painted on the tunnel.
“Why do the wood fencing kind of thing?” asked John W. Gaulden, an architect and a co-managing director of Gensler’s Charlotte office.