NYC’s Answer to the Spanish Steps

The new TKTS Booth in Times Square.

Jessica Sheridan

Finally, after eight years since the Theatre Development Fund and Van Alen Institute’s international ideas competition launched, the TKTS Booth in Times Square is open. Designed by Perkins Eastman based on Choi Ropiha’s concept, the small pavilion echoes and blends with the surrounding environment and provides much needed gathering space in one of the most congested areas of the city.

The dominating side of the booth consists of red glass steps, mimicking the nearby lights and signage — from the Virgin Megastore to Bank of America and the blinking Coke sign above. The all-glass structure is transparent, yet as one moves around it, it reflects the cars, signs, and people crowded around the square. On a clear afternoon, the sun shines through the glass to cast red shadows on the street, expanding the booth’s boundaries. Although small in size, because of the reflections, the surrounding activity is amplified and activated making the structure seem bigger than it really is.

The booth’s underside, facing north, is where the ticket windows are located. There are two kiosks on the east and west sides that display available tickets. While having two kiosks instead of just posting the listings at the front of the line alleviates some of the crowds, they are sited at the sidewalk corners at busy intersections that block pedestrians trying to pass (especially when a group is huddled around the kiosks trying to decide what show to see). Also, the biggest urban planning challenge — alleviating the long lines — is not fully addressed by the new booth. Unattractive red retractable belts wind the lines along the sides of the pavilion, imposing on the sidewalk, again in the way of passing pedestrians. Although there is more plaza space on the south side of the booth, the north side remains congested.

Overall, I think the new TKTS Booth is a success, and I now plan on making an effort to take time to sit on the steps, people watch, and absorb the activity of Times Square.