This is sad news in my opinion…a DIY approach that created a vibrant, sense assaulting space that was also personalisable (if that is a word) with its moveable chairs, will be replaced with a sanitised, unimaginative, dull space with concrete slab paving, some steel detailing and massive black granite benches….
Starting next fall, workers with jackhammers will tear apart the bow tie, temporarily making it an even less congenial place to hang out. But one major goal of the $45 million construction project is to persuade New Yorkers to love Times Square—to convince them that it’s not just a backdrop for a million daily snapshots but Manhattan’s most central, and most convivial, gathering spot. Architects and visionaries have often addressed that old ambition with high-energy concepts that gave us the current high-tech razzmatazz. Even in this round of ideas, the city has fended off proposals for colored LEDs embedded in the pavement, for ramps, staircases, pavilions, digital information kiosks, heat lamps, trees, lawns, canopies, and, of course, more video screens.
Instead, the city hired the architectural firm Snøhetta to produce a quiet, even minimal design that doesn’t try vainly to compete with the glowing canyons. Its beauty lies in dark, heavy sobriety and a desire to be a lasting pedestal to the frenzied dazzle above. In the most straightforward sense, the new plan enshrines a transformation that has already taken place. Ever since vehicles were banned from Broadway between 42nd and 47th Streets, in 2009, Times Square has felt like a temporary art installation. Pedestrians have been able to step off the curb and into the weirdly motor-free street. Rickety red café tables, which replaced plastic beach chairs, dot a blue river painted on the asphalt. Streetlights, lampposts, mailboxes, hydrants, and pay phones remain clustered along the Broadway sidewalk, staying clear of nonexistent traffic.
The new construction will eliminate that feeling of making do. Curbs will vanish. Pedestrian areas will be leveled and clad in tweedy concrete tiles that run lengthwise down Broadway and the Seventh Avenue sidewalks, meeting in an angled confluence of patterns. Nickel-size steel discs set into the pavement will catch the light and toss it back into the brilliant air. Instead of perching on metal chairs, loiterers will be able to sit, lean, sprawl, jump, and stand on ten massive black granite benches up to 50 feet long and five feet wide. Electrical and fiber-optic-cable outlets will be packed into the benches so that, for outdoor performances, special-event crews will no longer need to haul in noisy, diesel-burning generators or drape the square in cables and duct tape. Even on ordinary days, the square will be de-cluttered of the traffic signs, bollards, cones, and boxes that cause foot traffic to seize up. With any luck, crowds will gather and mingle only in the center plain between the benches, leaving free-flowing channels on either side for the rest of us, who have somewhere to be, people!