42nd Street is in for a treat when lighting designer Anne Militello completes the exterior lighting for The New 42nd Street Studios, a 10-story building currently under construction (rendering, pictured) between Seventh and Eighth Avenues in the heart of the Times Square revitalization zone. Designed by Platt Byard Dovell Architects, the glass and brushed stainless steel structure sits on the site of the former Selwyn Office Building and an adjoining parcel. It will contain 14 much-needed rehearsal studios for non-profit performing arts organizations as well as a 199-seat black box theatre on the second floor. The lobby to the adjacent Selwyn Theatre (the future home of the Roundabout, which actually sits on 43rd Street) will be incorporated into the ground floor of the new studio building.
Militello's exterior lighting is designed to transform the facade of the structure at night, when 42nd Street comes alive with lights. "The facade has etched stainless steel blades that look like louvers, with holes that allow the light to pass through them. It has the look of holographic foil when lit." To increase the dramatic look on the facade, the insides of the windows will be covered with scrim or mesh that will also be lit and change color (drapes in the studios can black out the exterior light).
To light the steel blades, Militello is using Altman Exterior PAR-64s with dichroic glass, coupled with fluorescent lamps on the inside. Ten High End Systems EC-1s(TM) will wash the facade with color, while a 200' (61m) section of TIR light pipe that stretches from the ground to the roof like an off-center spine that frames the left edge of the building will be fed color by seven Irideon(TM) AR500s(TM). "It's kinetic and it's flashing," says Militello. "It's really a big abstract sign." In fact, one of the criteria on The New 42nd Street is to have a certain percentage of illuminated signage on the facades of the renovated buildings. "We wanted our signage to be art, rather than commercial."
One of the early considerations in the design was the use of the old six-story facade of the Selwyn, which was to be incorporated into the new building. Last year, the old facade collapsed and a new design took shape, adding squares of mirror and frosted glass. In addition, artist James Carpenter has created fans of dichroic glass that dance with rays of different colors in the sunlight, and will also be lit with EC-1s at night, creating bands of diagonal and horizontal light.
Militello plans to do the final color selection and programming next fall from November to December. "I hope to turn it on right before or after the ball drops in Times Square on New Year's Eve, even if the interior of the building isn't finished yet," she says, emphasizing that her programming is of utmost importance. "It will be interesting to see what works and what doesn't." Especially in the abundance of lighton 42nd Street.