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405 Open Restaurants: An Emerging Typology

Date: 2020, Ongoing
Designed by: Jennifer Tobias
Credit: / @ideasintopictures

“New York City restaurants are adapting to COVID life through the Open Restaurants program. The design and certification process appears to have been put in place quickly by the city, and based upon bike exploration around the boroughs, restaurateurs are really busting out the plywood and 2x4s.

While restaurants themselves are usually professionally designed--from interiors to menus--these enclosures are most likely improvised and unfortunately temporary. Most likely put together to meet the requirements as quickly and economically as possible, I'm fascinated by the variety and expressiveness of these structures.

Many clawed their way into the world as traffic cones and caution tape. In other instances, you get the feeling that cousin Vinnie showed up with a power saw. Some proprietors went straight to Home Depot and came back with tents and plants. Others engaged carpenters who lovingly interpreted the guidelines, much like traditional builders worked from pattern books. Added details include handles for easy movement, storage for cleaning supplies, or refined paneling. Still other owners repurpose traffic barriers and wood palettes.

As the summer goes on, I see added lighting added and coverings responding to light conditions. Best of all, I see people bringing life to the streets, claiming space usually given to cars, and adapting relatively safely to our new normal.

In this ongoing series I celebrate these places, pointing out interesting details and poking loving fun at their expressiveness. This variety is most noticeable in the basic structure, along with canopies, finishes, reflectors, and plantings. For another appreciation, see Diana Budds' Curbed feature.

Viva NYC street life!”