a city street filled with lots of tall buildings

Snøhetta Makes Times Square Permanently Pedestrian

By: Scott Henson

Jose Luis Gabriel Cruz reports for Archdaily.

New York City’s Times Square has concluded the first redevelopment phase of a permanent pedestrian plaza just in time for last week’s New Year’s Eve celebrations.

Snøhetta’s $55 million redesign — bounded by Broadway and 7th Avenue between 42nd and 47th streets — creates an uninterrupted and cohesive surface, reinforcing the square’s iconic role as an outdoor stage for entertainment, culture and urban life.

Pre-cast concrete pavers and granite benches replace the temporary street paint, chairs and tables originally put in place by the NYC Department of Transportation for the ‘Green Light for Midtown’ pilot project in 2009.

The repurposing of congested, vehicle-laden streets into pedestrian-only public spaces was hugely successful, leading to dramatic increases in foot traffic, revenues for local stores and a decrease in traffic related injuries.

“There were seventy pedestrians for every ten cars in Times Square,” mentions DOT commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan in an interview with Esquire, “but cars were louder and more catered to […]. The balance was in the wrong direction. But now revenues from businesses in Times Square have risen 71 percent! That’s the biggest increase in history!”

As a result, the DOT hired Snøhetta to permanently redefine Times Square, seeking to: upgrade crucial utility infrastructure, provide event infrastructure for new and expanded public events, and make permanent the temporary improvements that the city piloted in 2009.

“Our goal,” explains Snøhetta principal Craig Dykers, “is to improve the quality and atmosphere of this historic site for tourists and locals, pedestrians and bicyclists, while reducing the traffic impediments so the ‘Crossroads of the World’ will retain its edge while refining its floor.”

Two-toned custom pavers embedded with nickel-sized steel disks capture the neon glow from the signs above, playfully scattering the shimmer across the paving surface. Benches are the infrastructural spine for events that act as magnets, orienting visitors around the defined pedestrian zones.

The next redevelopment phase is expected to be complete by the end of 2015.

For more, watch Janette Sadik-Khan’s TED Talk on the transformation of New York City streets.

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