In an attempt to decorate the thousands of temporary protective structures that surround construction sites across the city, the New York City Department of Buildings is launching a design competition that invites artists and designers to use these structures as a way to display their art.

Photo © Tom Sawyer/ENR
There are more than 6,000 sidewalk sheds in New York City.

Supported by a grant from the Rockefeller Foundation to the Mayor’s Fund, Urbancanvas asks participants to create designs for fences, sheds, and other support and safety structures such as scaffolds and cocoon systems. Under a DOB pilot program, members of the building and construction community will select the winning designs to feature on a temporary protective structure. The NYC Construction Codes currently prohibits, with limited exceptions, the posting of any material on temporary protective structures. Property owners also have the option to place a rendering of the exterior of the project being built as a substitute to the art. Winning designs can include the name of one art sponsor displayed in accordance with the pilot program specifications.

“Construction is vital to keeping our city’s economic engines running, but the temporary structures needed to protect New Yorkers during construction can become a nuisance to neighbors,” said Buildings Commissioner Robert LiMandri. “This contest is designed to bring the beauty back to our buildings and encourage developers to maintain their sites in a safe manner.”

Artists must submit designs for each temporary protective structure that are compatible in various combinations and that represent a strong artistic vision that can stand alone or be displayed together at the same locations. Submissions will be judged on artistic merit and flexibility to adapt to various temporary structures.

The Urbancanvas jury will recommend six to eight proposals to the design commission for review and upon approval the finalists’ designs will then be featured on the competition’s website. Up to four winning designs will each be awarded $7,500.

Registration for the competition is open on until July 19, 2010.