TKTS, New York

By Choi Ropiha
public spaces

Times Square, New York

By: Choi Ropiha, Perkins Eastman, PKSB Architects

TKTS booth, Times Square, New York


TKTS was opened in October 2008. It was a project that began nine years earlier with an international competition to re-design the existing TKTS booth at the centre of  Times Square. While the competition brief simply requested designs for a small scale architectural structure to replace the existing booth, we reframed the problem as one requiring an urban design response.

Our scheme emerged from two very strong instinctual responses to the problem:

An urge not to put a conventional building in Times Square, as this would undermine the powerful spatial character of the place; and,

An observation that as one of the world's great gathering points and a focus of urban theatre (literally and metaphorically), Times Square had nowhere for people to sit and enjoy the passing show, no arrival marker, no place for a Kodak moment.

These responses drove our approach, which ultimately become an inquiry about what this building could mean for Times Square and indeed for New York.

The design terraces the square's public domain upward, as a series of tiered red, translucent steps. The resulting inclined public space houses the ticket booth underneath. This gesture forms new public space where TKTS patrons and visitors alike can pause to take in the 'theatre' of Times Square, while also creating a built form that is 'un-building like'.

Giving the plan further potency, the tiered seating is lit from below, which causes the whole staircase to glow at night. This strengthens the presence of TKTS within the already visually charged context of Times Square, and forms a regal backdrop for Father Duffy's commanding statue.

Our concept has been developed and progressed to construction by architects Perkins Eastman (responsible for the booth design), and PKSB Architects (responsible for the plaza design). Through their input, the concept has evolved to become an exceptional bespoke glass structure sitting on an expanded open plaza.

The plaza design allows the pedestrian to take back the centre of Father Duffy Square as well as providing a proper setting for the TKTS booth. The booth itself is an all glass structure, illuminated with LEDs, and capable of supporting 1500 people. It incorporates an innovative combination of lighting and mechanical systems, including a geothermal system that regulate the temperature inside the glass shell

The project has helped redefine the way New York views its usable public spaces and provides a novel way in which to see a building and a landscape. Even though the project is small in physical stature, it has had a transformative impact upon Time Square itself, and in the New York City context, has caused new conversations about the importance of the public realm in the making of cities.