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Winners chosen in Chicago’s outdoor dining design contest

Will cozy cabins or heated tables allow restaurants to continue service even as the weather gets colder?
Cozy Cabins
Photo courtesy of Amy Young

Cozy cabins and heated tables are among the winning ideas announced Thursday as part of a design contest in Chicago to develop solutions to extend the city’s outdoor dining season.

The city-sponsored contest, which began in August, drew 643 submissions, including humorous offerings such as generating warmth by heating up urban rats.

Judges from design firm IDEO and the city of Chicago narrowed the field to 26 finalists. The three winners, who will each receive $5,000, were selected for their feasibility and safety by a panel of restaurant owners, chefs, servers and architects.

Here’s a look at the winning design ideas:

Block Party

Block Party, from entrant Neil Reindel, an urban designer and planner, is billed as a flexible outdoor dining solution that can fit into a variety of locations. It features cube-shaped modules that can fit in parking lanes. The modules can be added onto each other to suit more diners. The cubes are outfitted with radiant heating units and they are open to allow for air circulation.

Cozy Cabins

Cozy Cabins

Cozy Cabins, the winning entry from Amy Young, features adjoining open-front “cabins” with radiant floor heating. The structures are designed to fit within the footprint of a standard parking space. The cabin’s design was inspired by ice fishing huts, Young said, with transparent windows to allow for social distancing while also offering a feeling of community. The concept was created by design firm ASD | SKY.

Heated Tables

Heated Tables, submitted by graphic designer Ellie Henderson, is modeled off of the common Japanese Kotatsu table. The heated tables are typically used to keep warm indoors but can be modified for outdoor use. The traditional tables are made up of an electric heater attached to the underside of the table. A blanket is draped over the frame, with another flat surface placed on top to keep the blanket from catching fire. The heated tables would allow for full air circulation to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

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