Minimalist Times Square

September 18, 2012

Robert Ryman?  Agnes Martin?  Kazimir Malevich?  (Photo by Karrie Jacobs.)

Last night I took my SVA DCrit students on our annual field trip to Times Square.  We started with a tour that featured the Marriott Marquis in all it’s bunkerish glory, and attempted to visit the Philippe Starck designed lobby of the Paramount Hotel, only to discover that the lobby was closed for renovation (strongly suggesting that, as with the Royalton, another 1980s Starck landmark has bit the dust).  And then we sat, as we always do, on the TKTS Booth bleachers, observing the multimedia extravaganza all around us and trying to decide what John Ruskin would say if he were here.  Fun.

At some point, I asked my students what Times Square would look like without all the signage.  What kind of place would be left if all the screens suddenly went dark?  I don’t think anyone had a great answer.  But then, as I was walking back to the subway, I looked up and saw the SOM-designed office tower on the south side of 42nd Street covered in blank billboards.  It’s probably just the prep work for a big ad campaign to come, but I chose to see it as a work of minimalist public art.  Maybe it was a Robert Ryman retrospective.

Also, while I was standing on 42nd St. waiting for my students to gather, I was watching the hustlers dressed in Micky and Minnie Mouse costumes who, like the notorious Elmo, are posing for pictures with tourists in exchange for tips.  I don’t think that anyone, back when we were all fuming about the Disneyfication of Times Square, could have envisioned this particular scenario.

Tidbits:

Here’s a recent Metropolis column on my new neighborhood.

And here’s my current favorite video.

Oh, and if you happen to be in St. Louis on the 28th of this month, I’ll be speaking at the FORM Contemporary Design Show.