Norwegian architectural firm Snøhetta has unveiled a radically redesigned Times Square, swapping a congested mess of vehicular traffic with 2.5 acres of pedestrian-only area and a doubling of public space. The NYC Department of Transportation, Department of Design and Construction, Snøhetta, the Times Square Alliance, and City Ambassador Brandon Nagle were all on hand to celebrate the revamped "Crossroads of the World."
With 45 million visitors taking in the sights and sounds every year, Times Square is the most visited destination in New York City and the United States. The permanent redesign comes after the closure of Broadway to vehicles between 42nd and 47th streets in 2009, when temporary pavings and street furniture returned the space to pedestrians. The new plaza declutters the square by creating a unified ground plane from building front to building front, populated by ten 50-foot-long granite benches — inspired by the aerodynamic design of classic cars — that guide foot traffic around the area. Power and broadcast infrastructure has been embedded within the benches, eliminating the need for intrusive diesel generators, power cables, and media equipment.
A ground surface composed of precast concrete pavers reinforces the Bowtie's function as an outdoor stage. These two-toned custom pavers feature nickel-sized steel discs that scatter the reflecting light of the surrounding world-famous wall of signs. During the event, dignitaries took the wrap off a new set of table and chairs, unveiling the moveable furniture that will replace the site's current red seating.
"Conceived as a project whose success would be measured not only by its new aesthetic but also the long-term physical, psychological and economic benefits on its community, the reinvention of Times Square stands as a model for how the design of our urban landscapes can improve health and well-being of its users while providing an important stage for public gathering," said Craig Dykers, Architect and Founding Partner of Snøhetta.
Known as the "Bowtie", the project at the heart of the Times Square Theater District is bounded by Broadway and 7th Avenue between 42nd and 47th Streets. The first section of the new pedestrian avenue opened in spring 2014, with immediate recorded benefits to public safety, economic output, and user experience.
Data has shown that pedestrian injuries have decreased by 40 percent, vehicular accidents have decreased by 15 percent, and the area has experienced a 20 percent reduction in overall crime. Pollution in the Bowtie area has also fallen by as much as 60 percent. The data is supported by anecdotes from visitors, with 80 percent now agreeing that the pedestrian plaza makes Times Square feel safer. Over 330,000 people move through Times Square every day, and 93 percent of visitors believe it is now a more pleasant place to be following the changes.
The image of Times Square as an infamously congested space has been dramatically discarded in exchange for a wide open civic square that facilitates pedestrian circulation and safety. Designed to encourage a more natural interaction between users, the new space is a definite win for the city, especially District 3 Councilman Corey Johnson, who passionately fought to "give everyone the Times Square experience they deserved."
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