Cool Water, Hot Island

Molly Dilworth

Department of Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan announced the winning design for the temporary treatments that refreshed and revived the streetscape design in place at the Times Square pedestrian plazas while the agency moved forward with the separate design process for the area’s permanent capital reconstruction project. Submitted by Brooklyn-based artist Molly Dilworth, the selected design was composed of a graphical representation of NASA’s infrared satellite data of Manhattan. Titled “Cool Water, Hot Island,” the artist’s concept focused on the urban heat-island effect, where cities tend to experience warmer temperatures than rural settings. The proposed design’s color palette of striking blues and light hues reflects more sunlight and absorbs less heat—improving the look of these popular pedestrian plazas while making them more comfortable places to sit. The colors and patterns evoke water, suggesting a river flowing through the center of Times Square, and they also provide a compelling visual counterpoint to the reds, oranges and yellows of the area’s signature marquees and billboards. DOT launched the design competition in partnership with the Times Square Alliance in March 2010, the first stage in the City’s effort to remake Times Square following Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg’s decision to make the plazas permanent as part of the Green Light for Midtown project. The agency received 150 submissions for designs to replace the one currently installed at the five pedestrian plazas along Broadway from 47th to 42nd streets. The winning design was selected by a jury composed of representatives from the DOT, the Alliance, the Mayor’s Office and the Design Commission.

“This brings creativity and public art to the streets—literally,” said Tim Tompkins, President of the Times Square Alliance. “It signals that the theater district— already known for creative expression indoors—is now a place for creative expression outdoors, in the most urban public space in the world.”

The new design was installed July 2010 through June 2011. As part of the longer-term project, DOT and DDC are working with a team of experts—from landscape professionals to architects to engineers—to design world-class plazas with ample seating, new paving and underground infrastructure able to accommodate and enhance the signature events that are staged at Times Square throughout the year. The project also completely reconstructed the roadways in Times Square, which had not been structurally repaired in decades.