New look for iconic NYC streetscape

Whatever one calls it, New York City’s front porch or window on the city’s buzz, Times Square is getting new, albeit temporary look.

New York City Department of Transportation (DOT), this week, unveiled the winning design for the temporary treatments that will update the streetscape design currently in place at the Times Square pedestrian plazas while the agency proceeds with another design process for the area’s permanent capital reconstruction project. Developed by Brooklyn-based artist Molly Dilworth, the selected design is composed of a graphical representation of NASA’s infrared satellite data of Manhattan. Titled “Cool Water, Hot Island,” Dilworth’s concept focuses on the urban heat-island effect, where cities tend to experience warmer temperatures than rural settings. The proposed design’s color palette of striking blues and light hues reflects more sunlight and absorbs less heat — improving the look of these popular pedestrian plazas while making them more comfortable places to sit. The colors and patterns evoke water, suggesting a river flowing through the center of Times Square, and they also provide a compelling visual counterpoint to the reds, oranges and yellows of the area’s signature marquees and billboards.

“We reached out to the City’s creative community and tapped the imagination of New Yorkers to find a design to invigorate the plazas while a permanent plan is developed,” said First Deputy Mayor Patricia Harris. “We are working with some of the finest architects, engineers and landscape professionals to find a fitting permanent design for one of the city’s — and the world’s — greatest stages.”

DOT launched the design competition in partnership with the Times Square Alliance in March, the first stage in the city’s effort to remake Times Square following Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg’s decision to make the plazas permanent as part of the Green Light for Midtown project. The agency received 150 submissions for designs to replace the one currently installed at the five pedestrian plazas along Broadway from 47th to 42nd streets. A jury composed of representatives from the DOT, the alliance, the Mayor’s Office and the Design Commission selected the winning design.

The new design is scheduled to be installed by mid-July. The alliance will monitor and maintain the temporary treatments for up to 18 months as the agency initiates plans for the design and construction of permanent plazas under the city Department of Design and Construction’s Design and Construction Excellence program. As part of the longer-term project, DOT and DDC are working with a team of experts — from landscape professionals to architects to engineers —to design world-class plazas with ample seating, new paving and underground infrastructure able to accommodate and enhance the signature events that are staged at Times Square throughout the year. The project will also completely reconstruct the roadways in Times Square, which have not been structurally repaired in decades. Construction on the permanent plazas is expected in 2012.

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