Posts tagged with "Times Square":

A River Runs Through Times Square

Back in February, when the Bloomberg administration announced it would be making the closure of Broadway in Times Square permanent, Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan told us, basically, that she had been very impressed with the Dutch dots she had seen adorning closed roads in the Netherlands. In the end, the Department decided on something a little more complex for the installation that will adorn the roadway for the next 18 months, before permanent renovations can begin sometime in 2012. Beating out 149 artists, designers, and aesthetes is Brooklyn's Molly Dilworth, whose Cool Water, Hot Island is an abstracted representation of Manhattan's heat island effect, that extra blanket of warmth that plagues most urban areas. The piece should be installed by mid-July “This exciting new design for Times Square marks an important next step in the evolution of one of New York’s most storied streets,” Sadik-Khan said in a press release. “This temporary treatment will refresh Times Square and enhance its reputation as a place to see and be seen while we work on the permanent designs for the plazas.” In addition to providing some visual oomph to the blasé square, the installation will serve somewhat like a white roof, reflecting heat instead of absorbing it and thereby making Times Square a little bit cooler of a place to hang out, if not exactly cool. Dilworth is an appropriate choice for the project as she has a good bit of experience dumping paint on expansive urban sites. Much of her recent work consists of pour paintings on rooftops throughout the city and elsewhere, with the intended audience being satellites, particularly those of Google Earth. Following in the path of conceptual artists, there are rules to be followed, as detailed on Dilworth's Flickr profile including that the paint must be recycled and available the day of installation and the shapes are not premeditated but determined by the flow of paint on an open roof. DOT will probably take a firmer hand in the installation at Times Square, but the results should be no less impressive from the air.

Times Square Paint Job

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.

Advertising Jiujitsu

If you're an architecture geek like us, you love playing Spot the Building while watching TV or at the movies. (The International, otherwise mediocre, is one of our favorites for this very reason.) That's why this Cadillac commercial caught us so off guard when we saw it the other day. At first, we knew we recognized the "museum" at the start, even though it wasn't actually one. In fact, it wasn't even one building. The big photos of the Caddy are on display in the 14th floor double-height cafeteria at Renzo Piano's Times building, a nice touch given the cool light effects the building's (very climbable) ceramic bars create. But then, their gallery-going complete, the happy yuppie couple step outside into... Huh? That's not Times Square but Cooper Square! Somehow, through the magic of advertising, we've been transported downtown, outside Morphosis' new Cooper Union building. As though the restrained rectilinear forms of Piano could be mistaken for the curvilinear craziness of Thom Mayne! Nice try, Madison Avenue fatcats. You can't pull a fast one on The Architect's Newspaper.

Times Square Fish Tale

Did you have a nice time watching Phantom of the Opera? Did you buy all that you could carry from The Disney Store? Have fun strolling down the soon-to-be-redesigned Broadway plazas? Why not pop around the corner and check out a peep show? I'm not talking naked ladies here, I'm talking real live sharks! This isn't a joke. In the very near future this may be an option. The Wall Street Journal reported yesterday that Jerry Shefsky—a Toronto-based developer—is near to closing a deal with SJP Properties to put a 600,000-gallon aquarium in the base of the company's brand spanking new 11 Times Square office tower. In addition to the aforementioned sharks, the $100 million project would include tanks featuring rays, penguins, otters, and drier attractions such as a pirate museum. This could even serve as a model for other financially troubled projects in the city. Perhaps turn Stuytown into a zoo? Not that it isn't one already.

Coronary Blockage

With Valentines Day barely a week away, the Times Square Alliance is eschewing flowers and candy yet again. Instead, they're sending New Yorkers a giant designer valentine for the second year in a row, as Moorhead & Moorhead will stage an installation adjacent the TKTS Booth beginning next Thursday. For the inaugural effort, Gage/Clemenceau created a laser-cut heart as flashy as the surrounding billboards. This year's entry is rather more demur, as Granger Moorhead explained. "We looked at last year's entry, 'Two Tons of Love,' and, well, at the end of the day you're just left with two tons of stuff, not to knock that project," Moorhead said. "We didn't want to do something that would be there at the end. We wanted something more ephemeral." The designers—Granger runs the firm with his brother Robert—settled on something that would leave no trace, except maybe for a puddle: 169 blocks of ice, inspired by mason's stones, stacked 10 feet high. Moorhead said the designers had been attracted by the challenge of having to design something that would be unpredictable, where they would not be in complete control. "We have no idea how this could turn out," he said. So forget our first thought, that a giant melting heart seemed like a melancholy reminder of the follies of love. Instead, we've been convinced by Moorhead to view this as a more promising reminder of love's potential, the breaking down of barriers, that first flutter in the chest. Just be careful not to slip and fall. You might wind up heartbroken.

lumenHAUS on Broadway

If you can't make it to the Hafele showroom tonight for the presentation on lumenHAUS—Virginia Tech's entry to the 2009 DOE Solar Decathlon—don't worry about it. AN was in Times Square last night to get the inside skinny on the solar-powered wonder house. In a quest to reconcile contemporary goals of sustainability with modern architecture, the VT team went beyond solar arrays. They began by studying the Farnsworth House and looking for ways to increase its insulation while maintaining its connection to its surroundings. That inquiry led to the design of a steel-framed glass box outfitted with two layers of sliding panels. The inner panel is made up of two layers of polyethylene filled with expanded silica gel—a highly insulating material that is lighter than air and translucent. The outer panel is a stainless steel sun and severe weather screen outfitted with perforations to allow some light through. Together with the glass wall these layers deliver an awesome insulation value of R24. LumenHAUS is outfitted with sensors that will adjust the panels to optimize energy usage in the house. At any time, of course, residents can override the system not only from a central control panel and manual switches, but also remotely through an iphone application. The house opens to two decks, one on the north and one on the south, increasing the potential living area during clement weather. Inside, the tiny 600-square-foot layout was planned with space conservation in mind. Various items of furniture move and transform to serve a variety of functions: A high shelf pulls away to reveal the kitchen counter while itself becoming a side table for the dining area. The bedroom's closets slide aside to reveal the TV and close off that portion of the home for privacy. The lumenHAUS is intended to be a prefabricated living system and modular, so that you can add other pieces on and stack them in a variety of configurations. The house also becomes its own transportation device. Diagonal steel members can be added to the frame making the building a truss, then a wheel assembly pins to a steel member at the rear of the house, and at the front a similar attachment is made to interface with a big rig. Within a matter of minutes the house can be outfitted to move. When it arrives at it site it is lowered onto eight concrete piers, making a minimal impact upon the earth.

The Sun In Times Square

If you didn't have a chance to make it down to D.C. for the 2009 Department of Energy Solar Decathlon, now is your chance to make up for it. Starting today and running through Sunday, Virginia Tech's entry will be on display in Times Square. Known as lumenHAUS, the 800-square-foot single family home is replete with high tech features such as an iPhone interface, smart controls that automatically adjust climate systems, and of course solar power. If any of this peaks your interest, professors from the Virginia Tech School of Art + Design will be giving a presentation tomorrow night from 6:00 to 7:30 at the Hafele showroom, 25 East 26th St.

Walkin by a Winter Renzo Land

We've come to hate snow in the city, as it readily turns to gross, sock-soaking brown muck. But today, when we stumbled upon a scene straight out of Aspen, we were reminded just how beautiful and transformative the white stuff can be. Ducking into Muji for some last-minute holiday shopping on our way back from the Gehry theater press conference on 10th Avenue, we were delighted to find a mountain clearing where the courtyard of the Renzo Piano-designed Times building once was. From the birch trees to the unbesmirched snow, its the sort of sight you would struggle to find even in Central Park, let alone Midtown. Excuse us for getting sentimental—it must be the eggnog—but these are the sort of moments that remind us of the power and import of good architecture.

Times Square, Slightly Tamed

I’m a Times Square avoider. It’s too crowded, clogged with slow moving tourists, for me to get where I need to go without being so frustrated that I swear to never return. On rare occasions, I succumb to the charm of the lights, but those moments are usually glimpsed from a distance, down a street corridor or out the window of a cab. But yesterday, on my way to an event in midtown, I chose to go through Times Square to see how it had changed since Department of Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan’s recent street closure plan had been implemented. While I don’t think anything will persuade me to visit Times Square with any regularity, the mini plazas created by the closure of Broadway from 47th to 42nd streets go a long way in improving the place (Broadway from 35th to 33rd Streets in Herald Square was also closed). The increase in public space makes it much easier, and more pleasant, to walk through. The cheap lawn chairs—which look oddly right there, though they are already sagging from all the use—give people a place to relax and hang out, so that the square feels like a giant, and highly animated, street party. Sadik-Khan deserves credit for recognizing the potential lying under our feet and tires as well as the pent-up desire for public space in New York. The spaces are not designed—just some orange barriers and the chairs—so it will be interesting to see what DOT will do to make the plazas permanent. DOT is obviously making these improvements with very little money, but I hope that Times Square will get something beyond the standard-issue planters used elsewhere. It is a special place, special enough that I only need to pass through it a few times a year.

Their Heart Will Go On (in Times Square)

Correction: Apparently, we can't keep our Marc/ks straight. In a previous version of this post, quotes attributed to Bailly were incorrectly attributed to Gage. Apologies all around. UPDATE: We've added some shop photos Mark (not Marc) kindly sent over. While not quite a standalone building, digitally-driven firm (and 2006 New Practices winners) Gage/Clemceau Architects will celebrate its coming out on February 11, when Marc Clemenceau Bailly and Mark Foster Gage deliver their "Valentine to Times Square." As Bailly told AN, "This is our first big thing that we've built, outside of a few exhition pieces and some interiors work." The 10-foot tall, two-ton heart is made up of some rather high tech components, including two stainless-steel ventricles precision-cut with water jets by Milgo Bufkin and then layered with "Strawberry Ice" translucent Corian that was CNC-milled and then embedded with purple LEDs by Evans & Paul. "We wanted to make something to showcase some of the technologies we're up to," Bailly said. (The project, which will be up for about two weeks, is not only a promotional for the Times Square Alliance, but also Zales, which will be hosting some sort of "Profess Your Love" competition with the heart as a back drop.) As with all the firm's work, this one began with some pretty heavy-duty computer modelling. "The software is really freeing us from platonic geometries," Bailly said. "We're getting to the point where we can make the surfaces do all the work." He said he hopes this project will serve as a showcase of what the firm's approach can bring to a project, and thus attract interest for more ground-up work, perhaps even some buildings. "With the steel skin and the Corian plates--floor plates, if you will--it's almost like a small building," Bailly said. But not only is computer modelling helping Gage/Clemenceau push the boundaries of their designs, but also their production. Bailly said it's took just over a month--and during the busy holiday season no less--to design, mock-up, and fabricate the heart, which is currently being assembled in Long Island City. Given that the client ran short on time to produce a Christmas tree, the original idea presented by the Times Square Alliance, speed was especially important on the second go-round.. Bailly said he's psyched on the results thus far, though he can't wait to see the project installed in Times Square. "The shapes are right on, which is nice because it means everything worked," Bailly said. "But it'll still be interesting to see how everything goes, especially in Times Square, with all those lights, and all that intensity. The stainless steel will hopefully capture all that, but we won't know what that's like until it's up." "The name, 'Valentine to Times Square,' is really what it's all about," Bailly added. "It's really a gift to the city."