A River Runs Through Times Square

You may remember the NYC Department of Transportation’s call for designs for an “economic, temporary surface treatment” for the new pedestrian plazas on Times Square. The design was meant to be a placeholder that will keep the plazas looking fresh till the real overhaul slated for 2012.

The DOT announced yesterday that, from the 150 designs submitted, it has selected a proposal by the Brooklyn-based artist Molly Dilworth. Titled “Cool Water, Hot Island,” Dilworth’s swirling blue pattern is based on NASA’s infrared satellite data of Manhattan. The infrared readings determined that the New York urban area is much hotter than the surrounding rural areas, a phenomenon known as the “urban heat-island effect.” The new design proposes to symbolically cool New York down.

Dilworth’s vibrant colors certainly fit in with the Times Square look, although it is debatable if Times Square needs any more vibrancy. What Times Square as an urban space has needed is some public art, some form of creative expression apart from the flashing signs and billboards. This new work–which is scheduled to be installed in mid-July—is definitely a step in the right direction. But the really nice touch is that Dilworth will be inserting a little marker of water into the urban landscape. In this glass-and-steel metropolis it is easy to forget that you are on an island whose history has been shaped by the water around it. Dilworth’s little swash of blue will do very well as a reminder, at least until Times Square is ready for the next big change.

Image, courtesy the NYC Department of Transportation