Anna Emberson

Sidewalk Shed Gardens

Class of: 2026

Major: Integrated Design BFA

Medium: Multiple media

Faculty: Beau Bree Rhee

Prompt: Create a Dream Garden project where you integrate what you are learning about ecology, regenerative practices, landscape design (past, present and future), agriculture and more with your creativity.

New York City has one of the largest scaffolding systems in the world. Currently, there are 9,014 buildings with scaffolding up. The average age of these sidewalk sheds is 492 days. If you were to line up all of the scaffolding in NYC, they would stretch to 340 miles long.

My proposal, called the Sidewalk Shed Gardens Project, would add some much-needed greenery to the streets of New York City, as well as offset the ugly designs of scaffolding beams. The plan incorporates vertical garden attachments that are compatible with scaffolding beams. Vertical gardens can be considered one of the best and most efficient gardening methods in an urban environment. Vertical gardens encourage biodiversity and pollination, absorb pollutants, purify air, reduce noise pollution, and have a great impact on the environment, all while bringing beauty and greenery to the cityscape.

According to many studies, plants can reduce stress, meaning that vertical gardens could even have a positive impact on stress and anxiety that is often prevalent in large cities. The Sidewalk Shed Gardens would consist of vertical garden attachments that are compatible with sidewalk shed scaffolding beams, and would be implemented on every single building within NYC limits with scaffolding up. These attachments would measure 12’x12’, and would be made from canvas, which is a biodegradable eco-friendly material.

These small gardens undoubtedly have a big impact on both the environment and the morale of the city. If every building were to add one sidewalk shed garden, there would be an additional 1.3 million square feet of garden space in New York City. That is the equivalent of 5 Madison Square Parks! The Sidewalk Sheds Project would be planting over 150,000 new plants in the NYC Metro area, and as a result would produce 331,500 cubic meters of oxygen each year.