New Yorkers take their sidewalks seriously: With over 12,000 miles of sidewalk in the city, there is a lot to care about. So who wouldn't like the idea of making one of the most used urban features just a bit nicer? The recently funded Kickstarter project Softwalks makes small design tweaks to drab New York sidewalks, transforming them into fully-fledged public spaces. At launch, the Softwalks 'kit' consists of four parts; seat, counter, planter and light reflector, all directly attachable to preexisting scaffolding using an adjustable clamp system. The team is also developing an additional screen, bench and game board to expand the kit.
Designing for existing urban structures isn't exactly a new idea; projects like Michael Karowitz's paraSITE immediately come to mind. Still, urban planning is a big job, so why not start small? By designing for scaffolding that covers many of New York's sidewalks—technically known as 'sidewalk sheds' to protect pedestrians from debris—the project has the potential to make a pop-up park practically anywhere. Considering that New York City currently has approximately 189 miles of sidewalk sheds, it shouldn't be a problem finding a sidewalk in need of sprucing.
Softwalks began as a project at Parsons the New School for Design two years ago, a collaborative effort of Howard Chambers and Bland Hoke. They plan to put their first 2–3 pilot projects into use on the streets of New York this spring.