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2nd Avenue Subway_photo Charley Lhasa.jp

Photo: Charley Lhasa

NYC Second Avenue Subway, 96th Street Head-House

LOCATION: New York City, New York, U.S.

CLIENT: New York City Transit (NYCT), MTA

TEAM: Arup for AECOM-Arup

ENR Best Transit Project:

Second Avenue Subway Phase I

New York City’s Second Avenue Subway took nearly 70 years to build. The political, logistics, and funding coalesced in 2007 and was observed by a ceremonial groundbreaking at 96th Street Station.

Two months before the New Year’s Eve 2017 grand opening, MTA Capital Construction specifically requested Leni Schwendinger, of Arup, to “add colored light” into the monumental, glass head-houses. At that point, the arched canopies were in the final stages of construction. Arup, as part of a joint venture, was the design leader, providing full design and engineering services for the first phase of the project. Schwendinger took on the design concept and implementation challenges, a near-impossible task to fit lighting fixtures into a fully extant structure. The design had to be installed in a record 6-weeks.  A special team was convened on the construction side to expedite mock-ups, attachment designs, procurement, and final install. Approvals had to be obtained from MTA executives in record time.

Schwendinger’s team set about locating a flexible, LED linear fixture to fit into a precise, inches-wide extrusion. She held a mock-up for decision-makers to examine fixture choices, brightness levels, and color. A crucial decision had to be made on hue – should the head-house change color over time? Should it be the official MTA colors of blue and gold? Or simply a solitary color?  A singular, vibrant blue won out.

Set in a wide plaza, visible from adjacent streets and sidewalks, the 96th Street station features a blue glow marking the station’s location. Visible day and night, the spectacular entryway is an often-photographed feature of the system.  Frequently, news announcers stand in front of the massive glowing structure to report the evening newscast.

Schwendinger also orchestrated mock-ups for VIP MTA-architects in the stations’ underground areas.