Some people have complained (us included) that while Transporation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan has done a wonderful job carving pedestrian space out of the streets and parking lots of the city, they could stand to be better designed, more aesthetically pleasing spaces. Nowhere was this more true than in Times Square, where, when the Crossroads of the World were shut down last summer, traffic cones and beach chairs proliferated. Three weeks ago, when Sadik-Khan and the mayor announced they were making the Broadway closures permanent, better designs were promised. Sort of. As Sadik-Khan put it back then:
It can be very simple. I’ve seen amazing things done in the Netherlands with nothing but polka dots. And we did a lot already with nothing more than epoxy gravel.
And so it goes today, with the release of reNEWable Times Square, the short-term, artistic RFP that will do little more than put down a new coat of paint until the eight large-scale firms in the city’s Design Excellence program come up with a permanent alternative.
ReNEWable is open to artists, designers, and pretty much anyone else living in New York, with submissions due by April 16. That may not sound like much time, but keep in mind we’re talking about adding some colored epoxy in “no more than four colors” creating a “legible and unified scheme.” Not that this is a bad thing. Indeed, as a handful of school kids in Brooklyn showed, it can be quite a good thing. It’s just that we thought we were getting more. In fact, we were under the impression Times Square denizens were demanding more, unhappy with the meager offerings that showed up last year. Perhaps, there wasn’t money for more, though that does cause some concern about how much the designers working on the permanent scheme will be given, not only in terms of cash but also creative license. After all, this project is already politically charged.
Making it more so, we’ve heard that firms beyond the eight included in the city’s Design Excellence program were asking to be let in. This is probably for the best, though, as Sadik-Khan said previously that Design Excellence allows for a streamlined process—the firms are already pre-qualified for city work—and none of the eight architects—Asymptote, BKSK, Enrique Norten, Grimshaw, RogersMarvel, Selldorf, Snøhetta, and Thomas Pfifer—are slouches. Still, ground breaking won’t be at least until 2012, so let’s hope the reNEWable entrants come up with something lasting, as it’ll be all we have for quite some time.