New 'Urban Umbrella' Scaffold Leaks Rain on Mayor Bloomberg

By Ben Fractenberg on December 7, 2011 7:43pm 

DOWNTOWN — Maybe they should rename it the "Leaky Umbrella."

The unveiling of a new city scaffolding design got off to a wet start Wednesday afternoon when the structure — called the "Urban Umbrella" — leaked water onto Mayor Michael Bloomberg during a photo-op outside 100 Broadway with its designers.

The scaffolding, which is made out of recycled steel and has translucent plastic panels on top, was constructed Tuesday and had not yet been waterproofed since that needs to be done when the weather is dry, according to Sarrah Khan, one of the Umbrella's the three designers.

Khan added that silicone will be used to fill the gaps in the structure, keeping those underneath it dry.

"In a dense urban environment like New York these structures are critical to public safety," said Bloomberg at a press conference after inspecting the scaffolding. "But let's be honest about it, they are not attractive. And since there are thousands of them up around our city at any given time we saw an opportunity to make the structures easier on the eyes and safer as well."

The Urban Umbrella, which was created by Agencie Group designers Andres Cortes, Young-Hwan Choi an Khan, won the city's urbanSHED International Design Competition, launched in August 2009 to update a scaffolding design that has been in use for more than 60 years.

The Urban Umbrella was picked out of 164 designs from 28 countries. The design creates an open canopy that covers passersby below, that looks less confining and dark than the metal and wood scaffolding New Yorkers are used to.  The scaffold also resembles the inner workings of an umbrella.

Buildings and construction companies will not be forced to use the new structure, but it has been designed to cost about as much as the current scaffolding, and use things like LED lighting with an 11-year life span to reduce long-term costs, according to the designers.

"We've felt that the Umbrella is a synthesis of architecture and engineering," said Andres Cortes during the press conference. "And that it creates a safe environment on the sidewalk so that you can enjoy the city while construction is taking place."

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