Lectures on Times Square
As the founding manager of the public art program for Times Square and former professor of city
planning and architectural design, I have prepared two lectures on public art and redevelopment. Both lectures are highly
visual. Both lectures include the unique history of Times Square since 1904 and the operation of the Business Improvement
District, known as, the Times Square Alliance. Both lectures are entertaining and stimulating to both general and academic
History of Times
The history of Times Square parallels the transformations
of the 20th century city and is sometimes called the barometer of urban America. From the first
fact - Times Square is named after the New York Times - many details are generally unknown. The introduction
is crafted to the theme of talk, but generally include the history of news media, entertainment, advertising, morality, real
estate development and social diversity. A few key memories include the Great White Way, Ziegfeld Follies,
Paramount Pictures, Wendell Witchell, VJ Day, Frank Sinatra, Camel Smoke Rings, Midnight Cowboy, Hip Hop, Disney and MTV. All lectures include the history.
One: The Public Arts in Urban Space
As Times Square changed after WWII, so did its public arts.
Artists, writers and directors such as Kubrick, Scorsese, Kerouac, Arbus, Rosenquist, Warhol, Christo, Yoko Ono, Dickenson
and Neuhaus were inspired by its rough and lonely qualities. Later during the 80s and 90s as redevelopment
authorities and billboard companies sought to turn Times Square around, non-profits such as the Public Art Fund and Creative
Time invigorated the space with jumbotron videos and installations in empty storefronts. Holzer, Haring, Sharf, and Diller/Scofidio
are a few of the young artists soon to be international stars. Now the public arts have expanded to include
dance, murals sculpture, music, participatory, videos and digital works in the new pedestrian spaces.
The presentation explores the roles of temporary interventions
or performances and their relationship to changing urban lifestyles. What is the value of the arts during the economic ups
and downs of a particular space? What are the templates of production that lead to success among the density
of crowds and commercial electronic space? How do cities, business districts and art organizations maximize
the value of the temporary work in civic space? What new trends are emerging among artists and producers?
Two: The Kitchen Sink of Redevelopment Strategies
From the beginning, Times Square has been the
kitchen sink of commercial redevelopment strategies in the 20th Century. Oscar Hammerstein’s
1899 Victoria Theatre was a multi-functional combination of theater, restaurant, nightclubs and roof garden with live goats.
The Marriott hotel repeated with concept in 1985 with the addition of hotel rooms, a revolving restaurant and a legal
public space on the 8th floor. (No goats.)
The City of New York, State of New York and private developers
have experimented with many zoning provisions and architectural concept to encourage high-density development while expanding
space for pedestrians. Modern plazas, through-block passages, integrated theater and office complexes,
sunseted zoning bonuses and historic theater air rights were attempted. In the 1980s, the 42nd
Street Development Corporation condemned the cheap movie theaters and sex shops. Architect Philip Johnson’s
post-modern towers led to a battle that terminated Johnson’s project, mandated signage on all buildings and produced
Robert Stern / Tibor Kalman’s joyful design guidelines of the 1990s. Disney’s New Amsterdam theater investment
began the march toward today’s Times Square with family attractions and flagship stores for teen clothing. Now the NYC
Department of Transportation leads the design process to make pedestrian plazas in Times Square permanent.
The lecture catalogues the multiple zoning code changes
and responses by the development and architectural community of New York. A virtual walking tour takes
the audience through the experiments.
Book a Lecture
Please contact me at email@example.com if you are interested in either lecture, or a combination.