Architect Nick Flutter is sanding a wooden stool outside Wayan Restaurant in Nolita. The cube is being used for the eatery's curb lane seating, which was permitted for phase two of the city's reopening from coronavirus restrictions. It's made from the plywood that was used to protect businesses from looters.
"These are designed to be off the shelf items that any cafe can just quickly put up around their parking space and have a compliant outdoor dining setup,” said Flutter, a designer for BVN.
The concept of re-purposing the barricades made from thousands of sheets of plywood and installed during lockdown – as a stackable street furniture kit, is the brainchild of the New York office of Australian Architecture Firm BVN. They call the initiative "re-ply.”
"What we thought is that this is all going to go to landfill, so we have to do something and the opportunity to take what protected businesses and what was their defense mechanism into something that is sort of a positive thing to help community build again and start to open the restaurants up," said Bill Dowzer, Principal of BVN.
There are tables, chairs, and planter dividers. BVN came up with the idea just two weeks ago, designed the furniture over a few long nights, and with the help of friends and a rental truck to collect the wood, eight restaurants have already purchased the kits and more are in the works.
"It's just been flowing. Everyone has been sending us plywood and calling us,” said Nikita Notowidigdo, an Associate at BVN.
BVN is also trying to get this type of sidewalk furniture to some restaurants in areas hard hit by coronavirus that perhaps financially don't have the means to have an outdoor setup.
"We are looking at how we can get sponsors to be able to pay for the tables for those areas that really can't afford to buy the tables themselves,” said Dowzer.
A portion of the proceeds from the sale of the furniture ranging from $66 for a stool to $231 for a table set go to $264 for planters. One can go to Brooklyn-based Children of Promise, which helps kids whose parents are incarcerated. The kits seem to be a hit with restaurants that could have went the wholesale furniture route instead.
"Being able to repurpose some of the wood from that time is quite impactful,” said Kade Siapno, General Manager of Wayan.
It’s keeping the wood out of the landfill, and helping restaurants get back on their feet. To find out more head to Re-Ply.org.