About this project
What's our story?
Softwalks began two years ago as a project at Parsons the New School for Design. Inspired by watching stretches of Broadway blossom into pedestrian plazas, we wondered if sidewalk sheds could act as the framework for a similar type of social space. After researching, prototyping and testing our ideas on the streets, Softwalks recently won the Student Category of Fast Company's Innovation By Design Award!
So far, we have developed the project using grants from the New School and DUMBO Arts Fest. In public, we have used art festivals to install the work and see how people react. Each time we receive overwhelming support, and are urged by almost everyone to bring Softwalks to the next level. Our next step is implementing a pilot project in the spring for you to enjoy.
Why we need your help
For Softwalks, this Kickstarter campaign will enable us to launch a pilot project for a short period of time in NYC. To date, we have only installed the Kit of Parts for a day at a time. With your support we will be able to:
- Secure a pilot project site and install the Kit of Parts for a brief period of time.
- Help pay for shop space and materials to work with.
- Refine the counter and lighting parts for durability.
- Invite city officials, Business Improvement District's, and scaffold companies to the pilot project site.
- Host a party at the pilot project for one evening for everyone's support!
The Rewards For Your Support
We have crafted rewards (or potential x-mas gifts) for your support! Although these rewards will not be physically available by the holidays, we can provide virtual proof for those giving rewards as gifts to others. Email Softwalks and we will send you a printable card in advance!
The Sidewalk Shed Business Card Holder is a nifty designed object, available in MDF or Plexiglass. It ships to you flat in a padded envelope, and is easily assembled with a little glue. A laser etched Softwalks logo is discretely positioned on the side. It's a conversation starter to show you care about public space!
The Softwalks T-Shirts show different aspects of thinking related to Softwalks.
The Softwalks Tote is not your average swag bag. Constructed from heavy duty canvas, it is designed for durability and a lifetime of use.
Innovation Lab is a one hour session where we will skype with you to develop an idea you have! The results will be mapped out using custom mind maps Softwalks has developed so you can explore them afterwards, at your leisure.
Design Workshop - We will come to where you work to facilitate a 1.5 hour design workshop with interactive exercises, tools and methods. These activities will be provided for you to keep and use in the future. We will keep this one local to NYC, as traveling might be tricky ; )
The Planter attaches to the wall with a simple bracket. For inside our outside your home, this planter will last a lifetime. The reward includes the necessary hardware and the coco fiber for padding your plants.
The Softwalks Seat includes a bracket to hang the chair on. The bracket is designed as a little wall pocket, so if you are not using the seat, the bracket can hold your keys or various other small items. If you select this reward and need a custom bracket for a column, railing or other situation we will design and fabricate one for you!
This reward is truly unique. Initially designed as a prototype for reducing glare from the lighting in sidewalk sheds, we have carefully considered how it might be used in your home. As a hanging lamp or as a planter, this object is crafted with the highest level of care. The brushed steel interior contrasts the lively colors on the exterior. Custom finishes are available.
What others have to say
"New York certainly has no shortage of unsightly scaffolding on its streets, but what if all of that unused area could be turned into mini pop-up parks?" Inhabitat
"While skyscrapers and condos may hog the design spotlight in New York City, an awesome project called Softwalks is turning a design eye towards another common city sight, scaffolding." Architizer
"...Bland Hoke and Howard Chambers envision a metropolis punctuated with impromptu social spaces..." Co.Design
"What if we looked at the urban spaces we inhabit in a different way. What if we actually thought ‘outside the box’ and did something different for once?" London Fuse
"This has business relevance in the world's largest cities." Scott Belsky
How could Softwalks transform cities?
When a sidewalk shed is installed, it immediately impacts business on the ground level. However, in NYC there are organizations called Business Improvement Districts (BIDs) that advance the work of the city to improve the streetscape and neighborhood characteristics of an area. There are 67 BIDs in New York City, and we hope to market our pilot project to these groups to secure the ideal pilot project site. We will also strengthen our relationships with sidewalk shed contractors to implement the pilot project.
While the pilot project and this Kickstarter campaign are specifically for New York City, we are eager to use what we will learn from this experience in different cities around the country. Placemaking and re-imagining urban landscapes are important to consider as more and more people move into cities worldwide. Did you know by 2050, over 80% of the world's population will live in cities? This is one step for Softwalks, as we will continue to work on designing amenities and interventions to make urban centers lively and social.
Risks and challenges
Softwalks hovers over many lines—legal liability, structural soundness, durability, public versus private property—the list goes on. However, rather than run from these obstacles, we have continued to network and establish meaningful relationships with innovative BIDs, enthusiastic scaffolding contractors, and forward thinking developers.
The biggest risk Softwalks faces is exposure to liability. New York City is infamously litigious. A very small percentage of pedestrians slip, trip, fall, and run into things, and a smaller percentage decide to file lawsuits for compensation. Acknowledging these risks, we are consulting with specialists in streetscape design, volunteer lawyers, and are investing in event insurance for the pilot project.
With regards to fulfillment of the rewards, these are fabricated in a workshop called the 3rd Ward in Brooklyn. We have already made most of the rewards once, and are well equipped to fabricate the quantities we have specified.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
We have discovered that sidewalk sheds can be placed into two categories: Active and Passive. Active sidewalk sheds are installed at construction sites. We are not interested in these sidewalk sheds because they are loud dangerous places with plenty of workers and activity. These sidewalk sheds are normally up for a very specific and planned time, unless a project stalls. The passive sidewalk sheds are the type we will seek out to install the pilot project. These sidewalks sheds are erected due to NYC’s Local Law 11, which requires buildings to have their facade inspected every 5 years. In some cases, major work is required, which is quite a burden for some building owners who do not have the means to pay for what could be expensive work. In some cases, leaving the sidewalks shed up for an extended amount of time (the longest one has been up was for 12 years!) —is more affordable that fixing the building’s facade.
First, Kickstarter is not for starting businesses. Although many product design projects turn into this, Softwalks is not starting a small manufacturing business. We have explored the option thoroughly prior to launching the campaign, however it does not align with either of our career paths. The purpose of the pilot project is to finalize a couple parts for public use. Then, if the pilot project is successful we will market the finished Kit of Parts to one Business Improvement District to use for special events, street festivals and short periods of time where extra seating and counter space is quite helpful. At that point, the buyer would own the Kit of Parts and can deploy it at their discretion. If we can't sell the Kit of Parts, we may explore an option to lease or rent the Kit, and lastly we may keep the Kit of Parts and use it in collaboration with other designers or event producers for finite projects.
For the pilot project, we will identify the most ideal site to install the Kit of Parts. This is a very wide sidewalks with a narrow sidewalk shed. The Kit of Parts is designed to attach to the space between the outside of the sidewalk shed and the street curb. This space is underutilized and many times vacant of pedestrian activity as the sidewalk shed funnels people through the tunnel. From our observations thus far, we have had no complaints from blind or handicapped people. Yet this is one of many reasons we hope to install the pilot project - to learn more about streetscape behaviors and the needs or requirements of public amenities.
We do not intend to patent Softwalks. We have consulted with many innovators and designers and have learned that a patent is only as good as you are willing to chase down infringement (after the significant expense of filing for one!). We are a small design studio, focusing on developing new ideas and showcasing our capacities for innovation. However, if business is your specialty and you want to speak with us about patents and marketing the product we welcome your inquiry.
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