Softwalks (Kickstarter): This initiative, by students at Parsons The New School for Design in New York City, would create kits to transform sidewalk sheds (temporary structures protecting folks during street or building repair) with chairs, benches, and other enhancements.
The Softwalks campaign surpassed its fundraising goal on Kickerstarter.com.
The project: A group of students at New York City’s Parsons The New School for Design noticed stretches of Broadway were morphing into pedestrian plazas, and they wondered if sidewalk sheds (temporary structures protecting folks during street or building repair) couldn’t be harnessed to create public spaces. This project would create kits to transform such sheds with chairs, benches, and other enhancements.
The status: This Kickstarter has garnered international attention, helping it to make it to the end of the campaign with 249 backers giving $264 more than the $13,500 goal.
The good: The kits are relatively inexpensive (only a few hundred dollars each, depending on the component) and, judging by the videos, easy to put together and disassemble.
The bad: The seats and benches could obstruct pedestrians under walkways, or put constituents dangerously close to traffic if placed outside the sheds.
The verdict: If placed correctly, the Softwalks features could add some charm and class to what is arguably an unsightly feature of construction-addled streetscapes.
Jenni Spinner is a Chicago-based freelancer and former associate editor of Public Works.