CLICK HERE TO SEE "Times Square Is Bright: Time To Be Smart"
Upon the 100th anniversary of Times Square, the Times Square Alliance (TSA, the area’s Business Improvement District) launched a design workshop initiative to guide Times Square's development in its second century, in the context of an existing streetscape renovation project by Starr Whitehouse (SW) with New York City’s (NYC) Department of Transportation. In 2007, twelve multidisciplinary participants (loosely organized in teams on themes) were invited to submit viable, imaginative design proposals that would be uniquely relevant to Times Square.
TSA and SW’s guidelines were inspired by the European “shared-space” movement and two-fold, aiming at improving the pedestrian experience and facilitating a wide range of public events for this exceptional public space. Base information, site analysis, programming, prioritization of needs, and precedent examples were provided to the workshop participants.
Times Square is undeniably associated with light, and the program presented a compelling opportunity for innovative lighting within this urban electronic icon.
An exception in NY, Times Square facade and signage lighting is required by a 1987 City Ordinance. I extrapolated that as opposed to the typical cumulative model of civic and commercial lighting, Times Square presented a different and integrated model. With measured light levels greatly exceeding code requirements, I subsequently deemed street light poles to be irrelevant, and their removal to help reduce clutter. To resolve Times Square’s main challenge, which is flow management-- pedestrian and vehicular, I proposed to transfer the idea of smart studs (an existing traffic engineering lane-dividing device) into a grid matrix based on lane width (12’) for the whole bowtie area and adjacent streets (approximately 2,500 light points). This novel architecture of smart stud and control system was engineered by LumenPulse with the modification of existing equipment and technology, in order to simplify and reduce equipment (e.g.1 power device for 150 studs, a ten-fold increase over commercially-available products). Each in-ground recessed light marker is color changing and “smart”- individually controlled.
The resulting field is a highly plastic and adaptive “smart shared-space,” comprising roadway, sidewalk and traffic islands, which can respond to Times Square’s varying programmatic functions. Notably, this systemic lighting solution could be embedded in any urban landscape proposal regardless of its specifics.
Moreover, there is today a confluence on environmental politics at the federal, state and municipal levels, and NYC’s interest in higher performance. I proposed that these represented strong incentives for the TSA constituency to generate energy on-site towards its lighting electrical loads (e.g. solar with net metering on its collective roof real estate).
In 2008, the removal of street light poles went under study by DOT and TSA, and a pilot project with 50 to 100 studs was considered and quoted, but has been put on hold.