Scaffolding and construction sheds are a common sight in New York City, but for many businesses and residents, they’re also an eyesore. Thanks to a new trend sweeping the city, however, these visually unappealing structures are being transformed into modern art installations.
As reported by the NY Times, developers and companies in the U.S. scaffolding industry, worth an estimated $13.7 billion in 2020, are finding new ways to dress up scaffolding and sidewalk sheds to encourage pedestrian activity and create spaces that attract visitors.
Reimagined Sidewalk Sheds Turn Essential Safety Structures into Art
Developers and property owners are increasingly contracting with artists to revitalize drab construction structures, cover large expanses with murals, and turn building wraps into artwork or reproductions of building facades. Some of the more recent attempts to camouflage construction sites have even “gone 3-D” with redesigned scaffolding and large-scale experiential installations that attract people and encourage selfies and social media posts.
That’s a far cry from the dark and sometimes scary spaces which commonly deter foot traffic and frustrate business owners with obscured storefronts. And for places like NYC, the new movement has plenty of space to catch on.
According to the Times, there are more than 8,900 sidewalk sheds spanning over 330 miles across the city. Scaffolding is required under Labor Law 240 (NY’s Scaffold Law) for new construction and major repairs, and for façade inspections that must be performed every five years as required by a city program created to prevent tragedies involving falling debris. Some building owners will also leave scaffolding up for years as they put off repairs.
Citrovia at Manhattan West
Developers facing these realities are now pushing the boundaries between construction sites and art experiences. This includes everything from gothic-inspired scaffolding outfitted with custom lighting and Bluetooth speakers to pedestrian tunnels made of shipping containers and permanent structures that perform protective functions and eliminate the need to constantly erect and remove safety structures.
Manhattan West, home to “Citrovia,” one of the most over-the-top construction installations, features an entire artificial landscape complete with large sculptures of lemon trees, lighting that mimics sunrise and sunset, and its own smell created by an up-scale perfumer. QR codes placed around the site also allow children to interact with a virtual world of characters.
As whimsical as some construction installations may be, they’re sensible solutions that embrace scaffolding for what they are: essential safety structures that protect workers from suffering catastrophic injuries in scaffolding and construction accidents. The movement shows we can live harmoniously with critical safety protections, integrate them into our communities, and even turn them into art – all while keeping workers and pedestrians safe.