Changing times

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Roll out the red carpet the winning design for the new TKTS ticket booth in Times Square reinforces the sense of theatre that defines the Broadway precinct
Story by: Colleen Hawkes
View of the new TKTS ticketing booth in crowd, street, black
View of the new TKTS ticketing booth in Times Square which features red terraced steps used as seating that are lit up by fiber optic lighting, also extensive glazing.

It's rare for an architectural firm to have the chance to redesign a New York icon, but that is exactly the opportunity presented to Sydney-based architects John Choi and Tai Ropiha of Choi Ropiha. The company won the largest design competition in New York City's history with its redesign of the TKTS ticket booth at the centre of Times Square.

John Choi says that although the competition brief simply requested designs for a small-scale architectural structure to replace the existing ticket booth, Choi Ropiha could see the possibilities for extending this to encompass key urban design elements.

"New York City is one of the world's great gathering points and a focus of urban theatre, both literally and figuratively. But Times Square had no place where people could sit and enjoy the passing show. There was no iconic arrival marker, no picture postcard to leave with. It seemed like a theatre without seats."


View of plans for the new TKTS ticketing area, line, product design, white
View of plans for the new TKTS ticketing booth in Times Square which features red terraced steps used as seating that are lit up by fiber optic lighting.

The architects' response was to terrace the public domain with a series of tiered red translucent slabs that would provide much-needed seating. The new ticketing facilities are positioned beneath the stairs.

Tai Ropiha says the underlying geometry of Times Square contrasts the verticality of the surrounding buildings, and this is supported by the horizontality and simplicity of the structure.

"In order to give the design more potency, the tiered seating is lit from below so the whole staircase glows red at night," he says. "This was a way to strengthen the presence of TKTS in the visually charged context of Times Square. The bold colour gives emphasis to the ground plane, which unfolds over the southern end of Times Square like a luminescent red carpet, conveying a sense of occasion such as you might see at a gala Broadway event."

View of the new TKTS ticketing booth in advertising, architecture, building, city, downtown, metropolis, metropolitan area, technology, urban area, black, white
View of the new TKTS ticketing booth in Times Square which features red terraced steps used as seating that are lit up by fiber optic lighting, also extensive glazing.

Ropiha says the bold colour helps ensure the structure is seen as a marker for the Broadway theatre precinct. It also forms a backdrop for the historic statue of Father Duffy.

Tucked beneath the stairs, the new TKTS ticketing facility faces customers arriving by subway. In addition to ticketing counters, the glazed building accommodates offices, staff facilities and building services. Ticket information is projected onto the east and west edges to inform customers of availability and prices. And large, bright graphics on the east, west and north facades provide familiar branding for the new facility.

Choi Ropiha's concept design was developed and progressed to construction by New York architectural firm Perkins Eastman, which took responsibility for the booth design, and William Fellows Architects, which was responsible for the plaza design.

Jul 08, 2009

Credit list

Project partners
Theatre Development Fund; Times Square Alliance; Coalition for Father Duffy; and The City of New York
Plaza design
William Fellows Architects
Construction company
Lehrer; D Haller; IPIG; and
Planks
Solid resin with fibre optic lighting
Architect
Concept design – Choi Ropiha (Sydney); design development and executive architect – Perkins Eastman
Engineer
Dewhurst Macfarland and Partners; DMJM Harris; and Schaefer Lewis Engineers
Landscape
William Fellows Architects
Awards
New York Art Commission Award for Excellence in Design; 2009 Travel + Leisure Design Award
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