Snøhetta Gives Times Square a Sleek New Look
Times Square's latest redesign is uncluttered, clean, and features versatile new furniture, courtesy of a collaboration between Snøhetta and Vestre.
Times Square was once one of the most dangerous locations in New York City. Its bow-tie shape created challenges for pedestrians trying to navigate through ongoing traffic; on average, 137% more pedestrian crashes occurred where Broadway meets 7th avenue than in any other location in the city. Starting in 2009, NYC Department of Transportation closed off Broadway between 42nd and 47th streets from vehicular traffic, creating a public space in the middle of the chaos. They used temporary pavement and furniture to make the space more public-friendly, diminishing the number of accidents by 40%. In 2010, with this success, Department of Design and Construction and the NYC Department of Transportation started looking for architecture and planning firms to find a permanent solution, leading to the selection of architecture firm Snøhetta.
Tim Tompkins, president of the Times Square Alliance, felt Snøhetta would be able to create “a space that was flexible enough so that it could accommodate demands and needs of…the diverse space of Times Square,” a space that draws people of all ethnicities and must accommodate over 300 events a year. The firm made a point of simplifying the space, removing superfluous items (such as trash cans). The end design is an uncluttered open space with two toned pavements, embedded randomly with nickel-sized steel discs that capture the neon glow from the signs above.
Craig Dykers, founding partner of Snøhetta, and his team conducted anthropological research to understand human movement: “ how [people] move, how they sit, how they use various objects to hold their coffee cups to situate themselves to take photographs.” The research informed the design of custom furniture by Snohetta with the furniture company Vestre. The benches, made out of wood and metal, are of different heights, creating a sanctuary for visitors. As testament to its success, the furniture, within moments of being brought to the site, was being used like it had always been part of the environment.
After waiting seven long years, all the people who contributed to this project are already excitedly planning the usage of this space with different organizations. First up? Collaborations with NYCxDesign and Urbanspace, starting in May.