With yesterday’s grand opening ceremony in the books, Times Square’s 8-year-long transformation has been pronounced officially complete.
Led by Snøhetta, the project saw the United States’ most visited destination change from a congested, horn-honking vehicular area into a world-class public plaza with the addition of over 100,000 square feet of pedestrian-exclusive space.
“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.
Snøhetta’s design reimagined the stretch of Broadway from 42nd to 47th streets, replacing the existing streets with a continuous hardscape connecting building front to building front. New seating options, including ten 50-foot long granite benches, allow pedestrians to occupy the space at a relaxed pace, as opposed to the aneurysm-inducing shuffle that visitors were subjected to for decades.
Located at the heart of the Times Square Theater District, the bowtie-shaped site has already seen a significant impact in public safety, economic output, and user experience since the closing of Broadway in 2009 and the implementation of the first phase of the Snøhetta-designed plan in 2014. According to the architects, since that time, pedestrian injuries have dropped by 40%, vehicular accidents have been reduced by 15%, and overall crime in the area has decreased 20%. Meanwhile, visitor health has improved, with air pollution rates falling as much as 60% due to the removal of vehicles.
Snøhetta’s scheme begins first and foremost with the movement of people through the site – on average, 330,00 people move through Times Square each day. These numbers include both tourists and travellers coming from the nearby Port Authority Bus Terminal, and Penn and Grand Central Train Stations. Reacting to these figures, the plan was designed to accommodate multiple speeds of pedestrian circulation, using what the architect’s call “subtle design gestures” to empower people to move in a natural, comfortable way through the space.
Within the square, new spaces have been created to reference both the area’s history and its symbolic location within the city.
“Snøhetta’s design is inspired by Times Square’s past and its rich entertainment history – a duality that influenced both the larger concept and the project’s details,” explain the architects. “Times Square’s signature buildings and spectacular signs – the glowing walls of the Bowtie – create an outdoor room right in the heart of Manhattan. Snøhetta’s design creates uncluttered pedestrian zones and a cohesive surface that reinforces the Bowtie’s role as an outdoor stage.
“This clear and simple ground surface made of pre-cast concrete pavers creates a strong anchor for the space, allowing the excitement of Times Square’s commercial components to shine more brightly above. The area’s new two-toned custom pavers are embedded with nickel-sized steel discs that capture the neon glow from the signs above and playfully scatter it across the paving surface, referencing marquee lights and Times Square’s theater history.”
The recent changes have already been embraced by visitors and locals alike – surveys have found that 93% of visitors believe that the pedestrian plaza makes Times Square a more pleasant place to be, while 88% of New York residents agree that the plaza gives Times Square a unique atmosphere that was not there before.
Check out some of the before and after shots of the transformation below:
News via Snøhetta.