Josh Draper, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute – Friendship Cabins

Dining outdoors became even more en vogue during the pandemic.

Josh Draper, lecturer in the School of Architecture at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, discusses how to make it even safer going forward.

Josh Draper is a professor and architect working at the intersection of material, geometry and fabrication. He joined The Center for Architecture, Science and Ecology (CASE) at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) in 2014. His teaching and research at CASE is centered on waste materials, architectural research methods and phytoremediation. He received his M. Arch from GSAPP, Columbia University.

Friendship Cabins


COVID has turned our cities inside out, forcing us to reconsider their streets. In New York City, the Open Restaurants program responded to the threat COVID posed to the restaurant industry by establishing standards for outdoor dining transforming the city with thousands of outdoor dining structures varying from the nearly ramshackle to the luxurious to the visionary.

Friendship Cabins, designed by researchers at the Center for Architecture, Science and Ecology, is an outdoor dining installation at Peaches Kitchen & Bar in Brooklyn, NY.

The Cabins are enclosed, isolating diners and enhancing protection for servers. They are constructed using Friendship Bottles, a prototype, interlocking plastic bottle that is designed to upcycle as a building component. This both keeps plastic out of the environment while retaining their embodied energy.

The structures are designed for 105 mph winds, stronger than Hurricane Sandy, and shake table-tested. Easy-to-build, modular and moveable, the Cabins envision flexible urban programming that can be shifted for street maintenance, expanded or upgraded all using local waste as its main building component. Their translucent walls produce kaleidoscopic effects with sun during the day and vehicle headlights at night.

While part of a working restaurant, Friendship Cabins are also research testbeds. Near-term efforts include renewably powered lighting and ventilation systems with advanced sensing to address a hard lesson of COVID: even now, air in restaurants is under-addressed and under-regulated. How can businesses measure and provide healthier, cleaner air going forward? How does the restaurant industry develop a new kind of resilient hospitality?

Efforts towards urban resiliency are complex. Friendship Cabins begin to imagine a new way to inhabit city streets that could democratize the building process using local waste, while enhancing our health, safety and experience.

Read More:

Jody Kivort for Friendship Products LLC

Jody Kivort for Friendship Products LLC

Jody Kivort for Friendship Products LLC

Jody Kivort for Friendship Products LLC

Friendship Cabins Assembly Diagram:

The Center for Architecture, Science and Ecology

Friendship Cabins Hospitality and Health Research Vision Diagram:

The Center for Architecture, Science and Ecology

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Friendship Cabins: Alfresco NYC Best Outdoor Dining Structures // Winner; Special citation for Sustainable Design

Friendship Cabins: Fast Company’s 2022 World Changing Ideas Awards // Water // Honorable Mention

2021 Architizer A+ Awards // Architecture +Sustainability // Special Mention

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