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Scene: An Urban Umbrella to Replace Sidewalk Scaffolding

A possible alternative to dark, depressing construction hoarding makes its Toronto debut.

WHERE: Yonge and Gould streets.

WHEN: October 25, 11 a.m.

WHAT: What you see there is no ordinary scaffolding. It’s an Urban Umbrella–brand sidewalk shed, designed in response to a 2009 competition held by New York City’s buildings department in an attempt to come up with a replacement for the ubiquitous plywood shelters that guard pedestrians from falling debris at construction sites. The Urban Umbrella—with its elegant archways, LED lighting, and transparent ceiling panels—was the winner of that competition. Today, it made its Toronto debut in two locations: the site of the future Ryerson Student Centre, at Yonge and Gould streets, and also at the site of the future One Bloor condo high-rise, at Yonge and Bloor streets.


  • Billy

    I don’t know if I can trust glass protecting me from falling objects from a construction site. I really don’t see anything wrong with the standard ones.

    • Pk

      It’s a brighter alternative, allowing for sunlight. I’d say it’s a big improvement. It’s also made with a strong plexiglass, not real glass.

  • Anonymous

    I’d like this on downtown sidewalks all year round, with heating in winter and A/C in summer.

  • Anonymous

    I wonder if it’s strong enough to support the Sam The Record Man sign.

  • Clare Hodge

    It’s pretty, but the space between the poles is narrow and awkward for pedestrians at the corner of Yonge and Bloor. Thank goodness they finally relocated the pedestrian walk signals outside of the pretty scaffolding so that you know when to walk.

  • Anonymous

    Due to the high costs of this system, it has yet to be used in New York.

    Scaffolds are relatively rare in Toronto so for expensive new construction sites it is probably an affordable cost. But in New York the local laws require a constant cycle of inspections of facades for falling materials, which is the origin for most scaffolds you see on Manhattan sidewalks. They never really go away, they just move from building to building, and cost for property managers is an issue. The desire to lighten the sidewalks with something nicer is noble (and came out of a city-run design competition). But because there is so much scaffolding in New York, the regular stuff is dirt cheap, and this Urban Umbrella product has trouble competing.