The New York Times Tower
project name : New York Times Tower Competition
location : Times Square, New York
year of design: 1987
client: Municipal Art Society
architect: George Ranalli
associates: Robert Silman Structural Engineer
design team: John Butterworth
Since 1893, the Municipal Art Society has galvanized the efforts of architects, artists, and civic leaders on behalf of New York’s public spaces, municipal buildings, landmarks, and historic districts. In the 1980s, the Society campaigned against the city’s massive proposal to transform the fabric and social identity of the Times Square theatre district, in which Times Square itself, the city’s famous “Crossroads of the World,” simply vanished. In partial response, the Society sponsored a reconsideration of the iconic Times Square Tower, the old Allied Chemical Building (also variously known as One Times Square, 1475 Broadway, and the New York Times Building), soliciting ideas on how to reclad the existing triangular building as part of the reconstruction of Times Square. This competition began a major redevelopment that transformed this formerly seedy, honky-tonk part of the city into the major family-oriented entertainment capital of New York. Broadway theaters have never been so popular, and can now be visited as part of a safe, vibrant, and electrifying experience.
Although noted for the celebratory ball dropping at midnight on New Year’s Eve, the original structure was quite ordinary in every other way. The concept design for the Times Square Tower aimed at creating the impression of timeless vertical space, resonating with historic context to enhance the building’s positive civic identity. It simultaneously fulfilled programmatic requests for performing arts space and for renovation of the 42nd Street subway station.
At the base of the building, the design proposes an enlarged ground-level lobby space over a larger 42nd Street subway station entrance. Above the lobby, a distinctive sphere-shape provides space for an arena theater in which the stage is placed slightly lower than the audience. This design suits popular high energy performances and classical stage productions equally. The sphere adjoins to upper floors where space is provided for rehearsal and production, screenings, gallery exhibitions, and educational facilities. At the top of the building, two wing-like projections are cantilevered from a faceted shaft, each offering space for a traditional proscenium theater with accommodations for state-of-the-art stage design that include a flexible proscenium arch, main and rear stages, orchestra pit, and dock-tostage loading.
A vertical collection of theaters is thus assembled into the altered structural frame of the existing building, their forms protruding from a triangular enclosure that follows the boundaries of the site. These replace some of the exceptional theaters that have been demolished in the Times Square area of New York City over the last fifteen years or so.