TKTS Reopens

Thirty-five years ago the Theatre Development Fund's TKTS ticket booth opened in Times Square at Broadway and Seventh Avenues, aka Father Duffy Square. The booth served to revitalize the area by selling half-price, same-day tickets to Broadway shows. Unfortunately the architectural design of the booth exhibited the same discount nature.

[the original tkts booth | image source]

In response to the sub-par design (appropriately more signage than architecture) that was still around nearly 30 years later and the enormous potential for the site, the Van Alen Institute held a design competition in 1999. That was one of many competitions that I registered for but didn't enter, in this case not making the deadline with anything worth submitting, though 683 people/teams were able to submit. Nevertheless I vividly remember the uproar over the winning scheme by Australia's John Choi and Tai Rohipa, because their entry went outside the limited footprint allotted for the booth in the competition. Mainly it had to hold back from the Father Duffy Statue, something the winning design literally embraced.

[Choi and Rohipa's winning design | image source]

It's easy to see why this technicality was overlooked by the jury, as the design is an extremely strong one that creates a stepped platform for sitting, an outdoor theater in effect. With the buzz of Times Square, having a place to sit, relax and take it all in is a welcome addition to an area that lacks places for such. I'm sure the steps will be quite popular.

[perspective rendering of tkts booth | image source]

A handy New York Times graphic reveals the layers of the design, from the red glass steps over LED lights and aluminum pans to reflect the light, to the glass beams supporting the steps and the radiant piping that helps keep ice from forming on top. Clear glass walls for the two tapering sides, while the 12 ticket booths are encased in a fiberglass shell under the highest portion of the steps. The rest of the space underneath the steps is occupied by office space and a geothermal mechanical unit. The rather large size of the latter seems to have eliminated the public functions underneath the steps, an unfortunate loss in the process from competition to construction.

[opening day | image source]

Even with a horde of VIPs assembled for opening day, the daytime presence of the booth isn't nearly as strong as at night...

[the new booth at night | image source]

...which of course makes sense in Time Square, of all places.

[the new booth at night | image source]

Now all the steps need are people to animate it even more.

[the steps at night | image source]

Update 10.20: Here's a couple shots of the steps with people on them, courtesy of Choi Ropiha.


  1. I can see why that was the winning design - just stunning.


  2. Agreed about the conservation of space, but living two blocks from there and having walked by it a few times already, I think it's real success is the excitement users have about being in that space.

  3. very intelligent solution, however I would of loved to have seen the surface around the statue as engaged as the competition proposal. Otherwise it really is images of the boothes?

  4. Nice design. The glass was an inspired choice--it glows so vividly at night.

  5. That is wonderful! I have walked past the old building many times, but have not had an opportunity to be in the city in way too long, so it's fun to see this delightful new building here!

  6. I'd like to sit on the red steps if I have an opportunity to go to Newyork,wow,it's really wonderful...

  7. Go Aussies Go!

    Great to see some fellow Australian architects recognised overseas. Strangely, their profile back home is well under the radar, however.

  8. I like it a lot! could you stand on the steps for free? If it´s for free it will be wonderful!
    That is about public space in cities, and the potential of architecture, offering new posibilites for people

  9. It's a rather cool Times Square-esque vision in the evening when the stairs are lit. I just don't feel it's that attractive during the day. It's a wonderful free activity in New York.


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