By Anja Laubscher
Tim Tompkins is the president of the Times Square Alliance, chair of the International Downtown Association, and board member of the NYC BID Association. He was previously the founder and director of Partnerships for Parks and currently teaches “Transforming Cities” and “The Arts and Artist in Urban Revitalization” at the Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service.
We spoke with Tompkins about the launch of the Times Square Design Lab (TSDL) and the first prototype furniture commissioned in time for the NYCxDESIGN week.
Project launch date and location in NYC:
The furniture will officially launch on May 11th along with the opening of NYCxDESIGN at a press conference in Times Square.
The project purpose:
This year the Times Square Alliance is launching a new program called “TSDL” which stands for Times Square Design Lab. The program was born out of our vision for Times Square to be a place where the best of New York City design and the best design talent in the world is on display. We have commissioned five New York City design firms to design our first street furniture prototypes that address various design challenges. The prototypes include: distinctive seating, seating with storage, signage that would be effective in a place as sign-heavy as Times Square, and a mobile Strand bookstore bookcase.
The program was born out of our vision for Times Square to be a place where the best of New York City design and the best design talent in the world is on display.
Key audience for project:
The great thing about Times Square is that there are always multiple audiences, but since this is part of design week, we especially want the professionals in the design community to see it. We want to send a signal to the design community that this is a place to experiment and display design ideas. Which is a fundamental part of what’s always been Times Square’s identity and what we want it to be going forward.
Brad Ascalon—a multidisciplinary designer who specializes in industrial design, Joe Doucet—a designer, entrepreneur, inventor and creative director, Louis Lim—a furniture designer, Doug Fanning—a furniture and lighting designer, and Hive Public Space—an urban design and public space design consultancy.
One surprising fact about the project:
Whatever is made for Times Square has to be ready for prime time because it will be very visible and well used.
One challenge overcome in bringing this project to life:
The biggest challenge was defining our needs and making our brief specific enough that the designers had a clear mandate of what we needed them to design. In other words, we didn’t just say, “design outdoor furniture for Times Square,” we had very specific challenges that had to be addressed.
What makes this project special:
The awareness that Times Square is a very high profile platform. When the public spaces in Times Square shifted from being devoted solely to vehicles to pedestrians, literally the whole world noticed. When Duffy Square and the plazas raised the design standards of Times Square from ordinary to extraordinary, the whole world noticed. So if we do this right, we will be providing a set of street furniture options that the whole world will be able to take advantage of. Because for better or for worse, Times Square has always been a public space that has shaped the world’s perceptions about public space.