Curbside Action at the New Museum: The IDEAS CITY StreetFest Tenting Competition

by Stanley Collyer

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Winning entry by DavidsonRafailidis (photos of completed project courtesy of DavidsonRafailidis)

New York is no stranger to design competitions for smaller projects, especially where the focus is on its streets. Among some of those, either proposed or realized, were the recent Urban Shed competition, protecting pedestrians on the sidewalks from falling debris; and, going back almost two decades, the Urban Outhouse competition. As street fairs are pretty commonplace in New York, it would seem only logical that an ideas competition for a temporary “tent” structure in front of New York’s New Museum would also generate a lot of interest. As part of the IDEAS CITY Festival during the first week in May, this year’s event included one hundred independent project and public events occupying over a square block around the New Museum. Inventors, small business owners, artists, ecologists and activists shared their products and ideas, demonstrating the value of Untapped Capital—the Festival’s current theme.

The competition, sponsored jointly by the Storefront for Art and Architecture and the New Museum, drew over eighty entries from around the world. The purpose of the competition was to explore outdoor spaces that “produce new ways for collective gathering and city engagement.” The intention of the sponsors was to envision fabricating a minimum of ten structures covering approximately 1000-1500 square feet, accommodating a multiplicity of activities. According to the competition brief, “This competition asks for designs that envision street tents, not only as shelters, but also as active elements within the collective construction and understanding of the city. StreetFest challenged Architects, Artists and Engineers to re-envision the performativity—the material, social, and educational possibilities—of temporary outdoor structures.”

In addition to stipulating that the tent structure should be in the neighborhood of 1000-1500 square feet, a maximum amount of flexibility in accommodating different spatial needs was paramount. The program stipulated that the structure accommodate the following formal configurations or typologies, which can vary in form and size and should be able to accommodate the following programs as well as propose new functions:

  • Exhibitors who are likely to present workshops, classrooms, exhibits, and/or performances
  • Eating/talking areas related to parked food trucks
  • Vendors who will sell products
  • Several performances areas

Competing teams were to be composed of at least one artist and one engineer. The competition winner would receive a stipend of $20,000 to fulfill the construction of their design for the Street Fair.

To adjudicate the competition entries, a five-member jury included:

  • Cristobal Correa, Associate Principal, Buro Happold Consulting Engineers
  • Eva Franch i Gilabert, Director and Chief Curator, Storefront for Art and Architecture
  • Michael Manfredi, Principal, Weiss/Manfredi
  • Mary Miss, artist and author of City as Living Laboratory
  • Lisa Phillips, Toby Devan Lewis Director, New Museum

The panel reduced the number of finalists in the final round to three, and, after four hours of deliberation, ranked the shortlisted finalists as follows:


Winning Design

Title: Mirror Mirror
Team: Davidson Rafailidis

Buffalo, NY


Runner-up 01
Title: Street Wear
Team:  EFGH – Hayley Eber, Frank Gesualdi & Laura Sansone

New York, NY


Runner-up 02
Title: Common Marquee
Team: MAIO – Maria Charneco, Alfredo Lérida, Guillermo López & Anna Puigjaner

New York, NY


The Winning Design

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Completed project (photos courtesy of DavidsonRafailidis)

As a base unit covering twelve feet by sixteen feet, “MirrorMirror” includes a simple forty-five-degree-angled gable roof made from mirroring panels. A single unit will house small programs. When combined, the units create a large barn-like structure that will be host to larger StreetFest gatherings. The design utilizes aluminum frames with Mylar mirror foil that are often used as glassless mirrors in dance studios. The material’s modification for use as a construction element is innovative and in line with the goals of the Festival and its theme, Untapped Capital.


According to juror, Eva Franch i Gilabert, “MirrorMirror’ is a disruptive act in the perception of the city: it constructs serendipitous encounters through its mirrored, inclined walls. It shelters the activities any street tent does, but it does so by generating a network of gazes, encounters, and surprises where the citizen becomes self-conscious of its participation and construction of a collective act. Disorienting we said? Disruptive indeed!”

The DavidsonRafailidis team consisted of:

  • Project team: Georg Rafailidis (lead), Stephanie Davidson
  • Project staff: Jia Ma, Aleksandr Marchuk
  • Fabrication and assembly: Spielman Fabrication LLC, Jon Spielman
  • Structural engineer design phase: Matthias Michel, Imagine Structure, Frankfurt, Germany
  • Structural engineer realization: Peter Grace, State University of New York at Buffalo
  • Fabrication support by students of the University at Buffalo: Zakaria Boucetta, John Costello, Chris Ortloff, James Rice, Matthew Rosen, Fan Yang
  • Mirror panels: LiteMirror—Shatterproof Glassless Mirrors,, Irvington, New York


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Completed project (photos courtesy of DavidsonRafailidis)

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Presentation boards by DavidsonRafailidis (click to enlarge)


Streetwear by EFGH proposed a textile theme supported by a kit of parts, scaffolding which could be rearranged to fit different configurations. Although certainly feasible from the budget point of view, this interesting idea remained just that, as the jury relegated it to a runnerup status. The EFGH principals were: Hayley Eber, Frank Gesualdi and Laura Sansone.

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Presentation boards by EFGH(click to enlarge)


Common Marquee by the MAIO team came up with a unique approach to a combination tent/entrance canopy. Supported by two cranes, the two-story fabric suggested a curtain over the entrance to the museum, leaving one to often wonder exactly what they might be hiding behind it. Perceived budget issues with realizing this idea no doubt factored into the jury’s decision to recognize its merits as a runnerup.

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Presentation boards by MAIO (click to enlarge)