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Kickstarting: A Bid To Turn NYC’s Sidewalk Scaffolds Into Social Spaces

The next phase for the street-side, scaffolding-attached seats, planters, counters, lights, and screens is an extended installation in the Big Apple.

When we last checked in with Softwalks, the clever plan to apply place-making principles to New York’s ubiquitous curbside scaffolding netted a Fast Company Innovation By Design Award for student work. Now, cofounders Bland Hoke and Howard Chambers have launched a Kickstarter campaign to further establish their kit of parts–including chairs, planters, counters, lights, and screens, all of which were designed to safely and easily attach to sidewalk sheds–as part of the urban fabric.

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Up to now, each of their experiments have only been installed for a day at a time. “Sidewalk sheds are essentially private property–similar to a parked car on the street,” they tell Co.Design. Subsequent support from a large sidewalk shed and hoisting company offering to assist efforts to develop and test the component parts has proved invaluable, while ongoing conversations with business improvement districts surrounding the logistics and liabilities, and, inevitably, advertising potential offered by these curb-side pop-ups have also helped to evolve Softwalks from smart concept to everyday reality.

They’re aiming to raise enough funds to launch a short-term pilot project, lasting anywhere from four days to three weeks, in order to refine particulars and ideally lead to a truly marketable kit–taking into account, of course, feedback they’ll undoubtedly get from this extended setup. “It seems everyone in NYC is an expert in something, and we have received valuable insights from every perspective,” they say. “The most generative ideas have come from populations like the elderly or handicapped citizens, for whom we will definitely incorporate into the next iteration.”


Venues considered include the New Museum’s Ideas City 2013 and Arterventions. “We hope our pilot project might have a similar effect as Park(ing) Day, and how it sparked a worldwide movement to reclaim parking spaces for the enjoyment of everyone,” they say. “As more and more of the world’s population migrate to urban centers, it is imperative to reconsider how we move, interact, and engage along our city streets.”

Support Softwalks on Kickstarter here through Friday, January 11.