Leni Loves the Lights on the Great White Way

East

Schwendinger's Triple Bridges project at the Port Authority Bus Terminal, a few blocks away from her new site.

We got an email earlier today from Leni Schwendinger, principal of Light Projects, informing us that she was also part of the team redesigning Times Square, a terrible omission from the original announcement given that this probably the most well-lit place on the planet. “As a location singularly (and controversially) known for lighting and light, the Times Square win is very important,” Schwendinger wrote. “It is Light Projects’ opportunity to redefine the role of light in the public space of Times Square for pedestrians.” (Graphic designers Pure and Applied and engineers Buro Happold are also on the Snohetta-led team.) This revelation led to a nice little discussion on the nature of Times Squares’ gigawhattage and some brainstorming on what might make a good design.

The main thing, as you have said, is that light has played a critical role in the “Great White Way” since it was a theatre district primarily, through the sordid 70s with the huge cinema marquees and signs through the 90’s when bright lighting became MANDATED—the only district we know of to have a minimum footcandle level (rather than a maximum) which has made the visual illumination characteristics what they are today.

One of the vital questions about Times Square lighting will be the determination of whether the street lighting will remain or be removed. There have been discussions about the need for public, street lighting in Times Square amongst urbanists and lighting designers—and the conundrum in this case is, although the private sector lighting is legislated to be bright, the city can’t legally depend on private lighting to light the streets. So here we have theoretical agreement that the street lighting is redundant.

Times Square, the globally recognized after-dark crossroads of the world will be completely transformed by our team. My ideas for the lighting of Times Square will take into account the walls of Times Square, the buildings that make the walls, their lighting, catalyzing the uses and activities of the new plaza, and integrating into our team’s approach to the architecture and landscape of tomorrow’s Times Square.

Schwendinger stressed that these are of course her own initial thoughts and not that of the teams—duh!—but here’s your disclaimer anyway. As for the project itself, we’ve already got our tickets and can’t wait for the show to begin.

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