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Mayor Bloomberg, Buildings Commissioner Limandri And Designers Unveil City's New State-of-the-art Sidewalk Shed

December 7, 2011

New Design Improves Public Safety, Enhances Pedestrian Experience and Complements Storefront Businesses with Modern, Elegant Design

Urban Umbrella Chosen as Winner of urbanSHED International Design Competition and Represents First Major Overhaul to the Sidewalk Shed in 60 Years

Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, Buildings Commissioner Robert LiMandri and designers Andrés Cortés, R.A., Sarrah Khan, P.E., and Young-Hwan Choi today unveiled the first prototype of the Urban Umbrella, the winning design from the urbanSHED International Design Competition. The competition was held to create a new design for sidewalk sheds – temporary structures built to protect pedestrians during construction – which had not been updated in more than 60 years in New York City. The prototype of the new sidewalk shed was unveiled at 100 Broadway, a 24-story building in Lower Manhattan which is owned and operated by Madison Capital. The concept was developed by Choi, who created the initial design, and Cortes and Khan from the New York-based design firm Agencie Group, who oversaw the creation and installation of the structure. The competition’s winning design was selected from 164 designs submitted by architects, engineers, designers and students from 28 countries around the world. The Mayor was also joined by City Council Member Margaret Chin, City Planning Commissioner Amanda Burden, Alliance for Downtown New York President Elizabeth H. Berger, Executive Director of the New York Chapter of the American Institute of Architects Rick Bell, Richard Wagman, Partner of Madison Capital and Richard Anderson, President of the New York Building Congress

“Great public design is an important part of every great city – especially New York,” said Mayor Bloomberg. “Over the past decade, our Administration has been dedicated to encouraging good design in all aspects of the city. The new sidewalk shed is part of that effort, but it will also improve public safety, storefront visibility and the experience of pedestrians.”    

“The Urban Umbrella is a perfect combination of design elegance and construction safety that will complement our City’s sidewalks and businesses rather than hide them,” said Buildings Commissioner LiMandri. “This prototype is safer and more pleasing to the eye than the current model, and we expect many property owners will take advantage of this new design during their construction operations. The sidewalk shed is critical to ensuring public safety in such a dense, urban environment like New York, but for too many years, it has become an eyesore for New Yorkers. The Urban Umbrella is the solution to that problem.”

“For the last ten years, lower Manhattan has been under constant construction,” said Council member Chin. “Now we have a sidewalk shed that looks good while keeping pedestrians safe. The new Urban Umbrella will be much less intrusive and will take up less room on our sidewalks. This sidewalk shed mimics the beauty of the architecture and streetscape in lower Manhattan and is better suited to our dynamic neighborhood. I want to thank Mayor Bloomberg, Commissioner LiMandri, and everyone who participated in design process for bringing this project to fruition.”

“Sidewalks are New York’s preeminent public places, where we come together to engage with City life,” said Andrés Cortés. “Our goal in designing the Urban Umbrella was to create an environment that stimulated one to look upward and outward, and in doing so reclaimed sidewalks as the places of discovery they are intended to be.”

“The challenge was to synthesize an elegant architectural vision with powerful structural performance,” said Sarrah Khan. “While one bay of the Urban Umbrella is the size of a bus shelter, it possesses the strength of a highway bridge.”  

The Urban Umbrella features several new elements that are expected to transform the look of the City’s streetscapes and significantly improve upon the current model. The new structure, which is primarily comprised of recycled steel, translucent plastic panels and LED lighting, brings more air and natural light to the sidewalk and increases building visibility to help businesses attract customers during construction operations. The sleek design also limits obstructions to allow for more pedestrian traffic and increases visibility at night because of its strategic lighting. The design is safer than the current model because it is more resistant to the forces associated with falling debris, vehicle accidents and strong winds.

“The new shed design proves an elegant option for temporary sidewalk protection,” City Planning Commissioner Amanda M. Burden said. “The design has beautiful lines and is light and airy, allowing more room for the pedestrian and more visibility to and from storefronts. The Urban Umbrella will add immensely to New York City’s public realm.”

“With nearly 20 Re:Construction public art installations up for viewing below Chambers Street, Lower Manhattan is no stranger to finding innovative ways recast construction sites as canvases for innovative public art and architecture,” said Alliance for Downtown New York President Elizabeth H. Berger. “The Downtown Alliance is pleased to support the Bloomberg Administration’s creative approach to mitigating construction and improving the pedestrian experience, and I am delighted that Commissioner LiMandri chose to pilot this innovative and exciting urbanSHED project right here in Lower Manhattan.”

“The Urban Umbrella is a welcome change to conventional scaffolding, and it is a more inviting alternative for construction and renovation work,” said Steven Spinola, REBNY president. “I commend the City for creating a range of options that incorporate a more attractive look. This will only benefit the surrounding businesses and tenants, and I believe that once we begin to see the Urban Umbrella in use, it will become the standard design and will be very much in demand.”

“Design defines New York, from our waterfront esplanades to our skyscrapers,”
said AIANY Executive Director Bell. “Now the sidewalks of the city will see a transformation equivalent to that accomplished by the Bloomberg Administration in our parks and streets. Urban Umbrella is the result of the concerted efforts of a young and talented design team, and a collaboration of the Department of Buildings, other city agencies, the Alliance for Downtown, the Building Congress and the AIA New York Chapter. We were glad to play a role in organizing the Urban Shed design competition that led to the realization of this superb improvement to our streetscape.”

Madison Capital is delighted to offer a prominent corner streetscape in the Center of Lower Manhattan to display the first prototype of the Urban Umbrella,” said Madison Capital Partner Richard Wagman. “Madison is in the process of re-tenanting the 30,000 square-foot retail space at 100 Broadway which created an opportunity to erect this display.”

Supported by the Alliance for Downtown New York and the Mayor’s Fund to Advance New York City through a grant from REBNY, the Urban Umbrella was constructed to incorporate new safety and aesthetic features that vastly improve the pedestrian experience. The first installation at 100 Broadway followed months of material and connection testing by Agencie Group, test assemblies of the final structure and in-depth structural reviews by Department of Buildings engineers. While the design of the Urban Umbrella is not required by the Department, the innovative structure offers significant benefits to the real estate and business community, including the elimination of cross-bracing that visually obstructs ground-floor storefronts and building entrances. Construction costs associated with the Urban Umbrella are expected to be in line with the current costs for custom-made sidewalk sheds with reduced maintenance expenditures through the course of the project. Sidewalk sheds are required during construction of new buildings 40 feet or higher and the demolition of buildings 25 feet or higher. There are approximately 6,000 sheds installed in New York City.

Significant features of the Urban Umbrella include:

  • Sustainable LED lighting with an 11-year lifespan
  • Graceful lighting strategy that enhances storefronts
  • Translucent overhead panels that transmits natural ambient light to the sidewalk
  • Horizontal load equal to 2% of its vertical load
  • Elimination of cross-bracing that visually obstructs storefronts and building entrances
  • 300 pounds per square foot load capacity to protect the public from falling debris and allow for safe construction above
  • Adjustable feet that pivot and extend to accommodate changes in sidewalk pitch, eliminating the need for wood shims

The Department has issued Buildings Bulletin 2011-023, which establishes acceptance criteria for urbanSHED, an alternative sidewalk shed design to encourage an improved pedestrian experience, provide increased light and air to the sidewalk and enable easy access to building entrances. The Urban Umbrella is the first shed design to meet the criteria.

The urbanSHED International Design Competition was launched in 2009 to challenge architects, engineers, designers and students to find the most innovative, cutting-edge design solution to the problems presented by sidewalk sheds and scaffolding in New York City where construction is an ongoing part of the landscape. Urban Umbrella was selected for its sustainable characteristics, increased safety elements and aesthetic features. The competition was sponsored by the Department of Buildings, American Institute of Architects, Alliance for Downtown New York, ABNY Foundation, Illuminating Engineering Society New York City Section and New York Building Congress, with additional support from the Department of Transportation, the Department of City Planning and the Structural Engineers Association of New York.

The winning design was selected by a jury comprised of City Planning Commissioner Amanda M. Burden, FAICP; David M. Childs, FAIA, of Skidmore, Owings and Merrill; Craig Dykers of Snøhetta; Buildings Commissioner LiMandri; Jean Oei of Morphosis; Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan; Craig Michael Schwitter, P.E., of Buro Happold North America; Frank Sciame, CEO of F.J. Sciame Construction Co., Inc., and Ada Tolla of LOT-EK. Susanna Sirefman of Dovetail Design Strategists was the competition advisor overseeing the development and management of the competition.

To order the Urban Umbrella, contact the Agencie Group at

Stu Loeser/Julie Wood

(212) 788-2958
Tony Sclafani/Jennifer Gilbert

(212) 566-3473