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.
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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."