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Public Spaces + Streets

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Photos: Michael Grimm Photography

Photos: Michael Grimm Photography

Times Square Plaza Reconstruction


New York, New York


NYC Department of Design and Construction, NYC Department of Transporation


Snohetta, Matthews Nielsen Landscape Architects, Thornton Tomasetti, Buro Happold, Wesler Cohen

The Times Square Plaza Reconstruction is a case study in how integrative, site-specific illumination mirrors and intensifies planning objectives. The international draw of Times Square is due in part to the role of light.) In Times Square light is an event in and of itself. “Found” light from signage, shop windows, and marquees compete in a pulsing cacophony of sparkle and animation.

In late May 2009, a pilot to improve traffic and safety in Times Square by blocking traffic and creating a temporary plaza was completed. In 2010 invited teams competed for the permanent design of the plaza. Leni Schwendinger Light Projects joined with a design team led by architecture firm Snohetta. The team’s multi-media show presentation won over the complex set of owners – a municipal and private-public consortium.

Multiple sources of lighting contribute to the nighttime environment of Times Square; commercial advertising billboards, municipal lighting, and endless streams of vehicular traffic. The plaza is bathed rhythmically and chromatically with graphics from direct-view LED and bracketed billboard luminaires.

In the end, as happens with many public square projects, because of liability, budget, and other agency priorities, the lighting design was simply achieved by a consolidated streetlight layout utilizing the “New” New York City light pole.

Additionally, arising from Schwendinger’s early sketch concepts, bright metal disks were embedded into the paving to reflect the colored commercial light typical of Times Square. Construction was completed in 2017.

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