NY Exhibition: Times Square, 1984: The Postmodern Moment

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TIMES SQUARE, 1984: The Postmodern Moment

Times Square today is bright and crowded – a tourist mecca, entertainment district, retail powerhouse, and pedestrianized precinct that matches in vitality any decade of its storied past. But thirty years ago, the future of Times Square was in limbo, caught between a series of false starts at clean-slate urban renewal by the City and State and an emerging philosophy of urbanism that favored history, preservationist values, electric signs and semiotics, and delirious diversity.This 1984 vision of Times Square as a matched set of mansard-topped mega-towers is not how the crossing of Broadway and Seventh Avenue looks today. The rendering – one of many phases of the design produced by the architects Philip Johnson and John Burgee for the developer George Klein of Park Tower Realty from 1983 to 1993 – represented a classic moment in architectural Postmodernism. But despite the fame of its architect and the vogue for historicism of the 1980s, the design sparked a civic controversy about the character of Times Square. Community-organizing efforts by the Municipal Art Society, architects, and diverse advocates altered the trajectory of the government-regulated plans and led to changes in new zoning regulations that incentivized high-rise development in West Midtown. Preserving the historic theaters, maintaining the bright lights of Broadway, and protecting the openness of the area’s central “bowl of light” through setbacks at street level and acres of mandated electric signage were goals achieved by widespread civic engagement.Times Square today, with its costumed corporate towers and high-rise hotels, though designed and constructed in the late 1990s and the new millennium, had its genetic code written in the 1980s.

Virtual Exhibition: https://skyscraper.org/EXHIBITIONS/TIMES_SQUARE/

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