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Call for Submissions: Open Restaurants Innovation

In collaboration with the Alfresco NYC Coalition, NYCxDesign’s Design Corps, Design Advocates, and NYC agencies, AIA New York is producing a series of workshops that seek to directly influence the future of New York City’s permanent Open Restaurants program.  

We are calling on all designers and restaurateurs with outdoor dining structure experience, and who want to see the Open Restaurants program continue and improve, to share their work, highlighting innovative designs, materials, and methodologies that can inform design policy for the city’s program.  

Submitted projects will be reviewed and assessed during the course of the workshops, allowing participants to discern design considerations for outdoor structures. These discussions may inform a recommendation report produced by Alfresco NYC, part of the city’s public engagement plan for Open Restaurants, which will ultimately influence the draft of official design guidelines for the program. 

This could be the NYC design and restaurant community’s most significant opportunity to help shape the future of the permanent Open Restaurants program.  


This Open Restaurants Innovation program is planned in three distinct parts: 

Call for Submissions: Interested participants will be able to submit their work, highlighting innovations that address existing and anticipated conditions. We are seeking both holistic responses and specific, novel solutions.  

A selection committee will identify up to three exemplary submissions that will become the basis for the following parts of the program, including public programs, workshops, and roundtables. Submissions that respond to one or a few of the criteria but show exemplary innovation in one or more specific areas will also be highlighted during subsequent activities. 

Workshops: The design teams behind the three holistic, exemplary projects, and those behind other designs showcasing exemplary innovation, will collaborate with NYC’s Open Restaurants team and design volunteers over a series of three workshops throughout the months of February and March that will use their designs as case studies to explore design considerations for outdoor dining structures. These workshops will also have access to a compendium of all qualified submissions as additional reference material. 

Recognition: The teams behind the three exemplary submissions and other highlighted submissions will present their work at a public event on the Open Restaurants program at the Center for Architecture in late March. 

Upon completion of all three phases, the design ideas generated in these workshops may be referenced in the recommendation report produced for the City by Alfresco NYC. All projects referenced in the report, or that serve as a basis for recommendations, will be appropriately credited in the report and any future publications.  


January 14 – Call for submissions launches 
January 28 – Submission deadline  
Week of January 31 – Selection committee deliberation and case study confirmation 
Friday, February 11, 6pm – 8pm – Workshop 1 and Kickoff 
Saturday, February 26, 12pm - 2pm – Workshop 2 
Thursday, March 17, 6pm - 8pm – Workshop 3 
Monday, March 28, 6pm – 8pm – Public Program 

Types of Work  

Built (New York City) - Outdoor dining structures built in all New York City boroughs in accordance with the current Open Restaurants siting and design guidelines.  

Built (Outside New York City) - Outdoor dining structures built outside of NYC. Submissions must include the design parameters for the municipality the structure is located in.  

Unbuilt – Conceptual work for outdoor dining structures. Unbuilt submissions must communicate strong, cost-effective, real-world feasibility.  

Evaluation Criteria 

We strongly encourage submissions that directly respond to the design criteria below. Each entry will be assessed based on the success with which it has met these criteria with strong supportive information. 

Submissions that respond to more criteria will be more likely to be selected as one of the three exemplary projects, however, projects that innovate in one or a few criteria are encouraged to submit and may be recognized for their specific innovations. 

Civic Engagement – How are Open Restaurants beneficial to the street and to communities? This criterion assesses design and design elements that broaden public use, constituencies, and the scope of design practice.  


  • Design for affordability  

    • Including ways to provide resources to businesses to build affordable roadway setups, with potential to include pre-approved setups., and measures to ensure that restaurants with limited means can implement safe and attractive setups. 

  • Design for neighborhood context 

  • Design for social equity  

    • Including community partnerships, integration with Open Streets, inclusive designs with community space, etc. 

  • Design for programmatic diversity 

  • Inclusive design process  

  • Reproducible design process  

  • Other 


Quality of Life – How are Open Restaurants good neighbors? This criterion assesses overall design and design elements that address the concerns of local communities 


  • Accessibility and safety for patrons 

  • ADA access to structures, including seating.  

  • Accessibility and safety for pedestrians 

    • Including appropriate siting/spacing for all seating from sidewalk and roadbed elements, etc. 

  • Accessibility and safety for staff  

  • Accessibility and safety for roadway transit  

  • Access to infrastructure  

    • Including manholes/valves, roadway projects, etc. 

  • Balancing patron comfort with civic inclusion 

  • Nighttime appearance 

  • Noise 

  • Street and sidewalk connectivity 

  • Sanitation and cleanliness 

    • Including integrated curb access or waste setout areas, pest control, etc. 

  • Other 


Technical - The state-of-the-art and the speculative. This criterion assesses overall design and design elements that are technically accomplished and innovative 


  • Acoustics 

  • Coverings and structure 

  • Construction process 

  • Electricity and energy  

  • Interior conditioning 

  • Novel, durable, and/or sustainable materials and material flows 

  • Portability 

  • Roadway safety  

    • Including barriers, complex site conditions, integration with local mobility, etc. 

  • Seating 

  • Sight lines 

  • Signage 

  • Slopes and grade changes 

  • Storage 

  • Storm water and resiliency 

  • Other  

Entry Fees 

There are no entry fees 

Submission Requirements 

  • Please note that this is not a submission for an awards program. Heavily refined graphics and narratives are not required. 

  • Drawings, images, and text that precisely respond to the evaluation criteria and highlight specific innovative design elements are preferred. 

  • Submission must be a single file smaller than 20 MB. 

  • PDF should be formatted as 11x17, landscape, and no more than 7 pages. 

  • The first page should summarize the project, including its location, selected evaluation criteria, problem statement, and design team. 

  • The remaining pages should specifically address the evaluation criteria to be considered via text, diagrams, and/or pictures. 

  • Submissions are not required to use the maximum number of pages 

  • At least one high-resolution, press-ready image uploaded separately. Please provide appropriate and complete credit information for each submitted image.  

  • Upon Selection Committee review, selected structures will be contacted to provide additional images and credits for public programming and for potential inclusion as case studies in the recommendation report and/or any future publications or guidelines. 

  • Submitted work will be privately accessible to AIA New York, Alfresco NYC, and members of the workshops. 

  • Submitted work will not be made public unless a written request is granted by the submitting design team and restaurant. 

How to Apply 

Click “Submit” and create an account or use an existing login.