Architecture Beyond Broadway:As New and Renovated Theatres Continue to Spring Up on the Midtown Landscape, a Host of Themed Venues--From TV to Wall Street to Pro Wrestling--Are Also Contributing to the Amazing Transformation of 42nd Street and Times Square. ED Takes You on a Hardhat Tour.
Two years ago, when we did our Special Report on Times Square, the area was one big construction zone. Today, most of that construction is completed, but there's a whole new spate of construction going up. As a result, it's tougher than ever to get around Times Square these days. In addition to the massive construction sites, tourists of all shapes and sizes, increased office space, live TV broadcasts from MTV and ABC, and a healthy run of Broadway hits--all are contributing to the human gridlock that is midtown Manhattan. It would be easy to complain about all this--and believe us, it is very easy indeed when you've got three minutes until curtain at the Helen Hayes and there's a gaggle of Germans gawking at the Nasdaq sign on one side, a mass of squealing teenage girls hoping for a peek of Carson Daly on the other, and you're all completely surrounded by media types from Viacom and Conde Nast gabbing on cell phones about dinner reservations.
But those who do complain not only miss the point, they seem to have completely forgotten the way things used to be in that area between 42nd Street and Duffy Square commonly known as the Crossroads of the World. Back in 1990, when Cora Cahan and her startup staff of a new, non-profit organization called the New 42nd Street moved into rented quarters in the old McGraw-Hill Building, the area was just as crowded. But instead of tourists, teens, and business types, it was hookers, crackheads, sailors, drunks, predators, and hawkers of the tackiest souvenirs known to man. 42nd Street itself was one porn shop after another.
But following several challenging years of frustrating negotiations, the New 42nd Street officially started the surge of commercial development in the area when it renovated and reopened the New Victory Theatre in December 1995. Since then, the group leased five of the remaining six theatres under its control: Livent (and subsequently SFX Entertainment) took over the Lyric and Apollo and created the Ford Center for the Performing Arts; the Liberty and Empire have been merged into an entertainment complex developed by Forest City Ratner, including a Madame Tussaud's Wax Museum and a 25-screen movie complex run by AMC; and the Selwyn has been taken over by the Roundabout Theatre Company and renamed the American Airlines Theatre. Perhaps more significantly, Walt Disney renovated and reopened the New Amsterdam, current home of The Lion King.
But that's only one block of 42nd Street. The Times Square area has also seen the emergence of a spate of themed venues, from ESPN Zone to Nasdaq's MarketSite Tower to ABC's Time Square Studios, to the WWF restaurant. Because of this amazing transformation--not only from its squalid condition of the last 30 years to a vibrant heart of the city but also from its theatrical origins to a true themed destination--we decided to take another look at Times Square and its environs. And because the transformation is not quite complete, we decided to call it a hardhat tour. So don those hardhats and mind the dust as we give you another look at the Crossroads of the World.
And don't worry, you'll still be able to find hawkers of the cheesiest souvenirs known to man. This is New York, after all.
Perhaps subscribers to the Roundabout Theatre will get bonus frequent-flyer miles now that the company's new home is called the American Airlines Theatre. And just like the airline, this Broadway-based non-profit company has added extra leg room between the rows of seats in its newly restored home, the former Selwyn Theatre, which first opened in 1918.
"The theatre was run down when we got ahold of it," explains Glenn Merwede, Roundabout's technical director, who has been supervising this daunting renovation project for the past three years (he began in 1997, working with Roundabout's former production director Mike Curry). "It had undergone several other renovations and had functioned as a movie theatre for years, from the late 1930s to the late 70s." What the Roundabout inherited was the skeleton of a classic Broadway house, whose gold leaf and decorative murals had been painted over with flat cream and red paint, and the once lushly upholstered seats had been covered in vinyl.
Roundabout bravely embarked on this $21 million renovation in the same spirit as its magnificently restored neighbors, the New Victory and the New Amsterdam. As with the New Victory (as well as the Ford Center for the Performing Arts), the New 42nd St. Inc. organization is the theatre's landlord and worked with the Roundabout's management on lease issues as well as providing selected oversight on the physical and operational aspects of the renovation.
"Our goal was to bring the building back to how it was in 1918, but with modern stage equipment," says Merwede of the Selwyn, which was designed by architect George Keister. "All murals, plaster, wood, marble, and metal on both the interior and exterior have to go through an approval process," he explains. "It is time-consuming, but ultimately makes for a beautiful building."
A design team including design architect Robert Ascione, architect of record Karlsberger Architecture, and Theatre Projects Consultants, as well as preservation/restoration architect Francesca Russo and scenic designer Tony Walton, worked with Todd Haimes, Roundabout's artistic director. The goal was updating the theatre within strict guidelines, and creating an honest rendition of the original. Fortunately for the architects, a complete set of drawings for the Selwyn were found in the Shubert Archives.
"These were indispensable, although we wish we had better ones, as a lot of changes were made in the field when the theatre was built. All that was there in 1918 was not on the drawings," explains Fred Basch, project manager for Karlsberger Architecture, who worked very closely with Ascione, the Roundabout's architect for over two decades. The drawings, as well as existing photographs of the interior, did help facilitate matters like the restoration of the balcony boxes, which had been removed.
The theatre actually sits on 43rd Street, where the Selwyn's classic facade remains extant. The 42nd Street facade, which allows access to the theatre through a long lobby, was slated to be saved, but unfortunately collapsed in December 1998. The high-tech glass and metal front of the New 42nd Street Studio building was redesigned to fill the missing piece.
The brick of the 43rd Street facade has been cleaned, and missing terra-cotta and stone work has been replicated. All ideas for exterior signage on both streets will be submitted to the 42nd Street Development Project to undergo an approval process. "Our plan for signage on 42nd Street coordinates with the facade of the new studio building," confirms Merwede. The box office and theatre entrance is on 42nd Street, as the 43rd Street doors are for exit only.
"This is the first project of this scale for the Roundabout," he continues. In the company's former venues, for example, there was very little wing space, no fly space, and fixed pipe grids. "This is a new experience for us," Merwede says, pointing out that the company also needed the necessary amenities to properly host its 40,000 subscribers.
"The Roundabout wanted to create space for the patrons by excavating under the theatre and putting extra floors on the roof like they did at the turn of the century. It's an old theatre tradition," says Basch. "The vast majority of what we did was to aid the comfort of the audience."
An excavation of 13' below the theatre allowed for larger restrooms with ADA access, lounges, storage, and a corridor for technical needs. Three new elevators, including one that was shoehorned into an old fire escape area, as well as two new staircases, were added at the back of the auditorium to offer access to the new floors above the house.
"Once the Roundabout heard we could add 4,000-5,000 sq. ft. above the theatre, they were very excited," says Basch. The result is a double-level addition that contains reception rooms, two kitchen/food preparation areas, and two bar areas.
This upper addition sits on four major steel columns (two framing the proscenium and two at the back of the auditorium) that were part of the original building. There were also two trusses that run above the ceiling from the back of the auditorium to the proscenium to support the central dome.
To support the new floors, the steel columns were extended 25' above their original height and two new trusses were put in to run perpendicular to the original ones. "This assures that there is no load on the old building except on the columns," Basch explains. "This was quite a challenge, as we were concerned about cracking the plaster dome. This is why the truss structure was used. The old roof is still there, with the new roof 22' above it. We wanted to modernize the building without changing the outside look."
Theatre Projects consulted with the Roundabout on the layout for the new seating configuration, as well as new equipment design and specification for stage platforms, rigging onstage, and front-of-house, lighting systems, and the infrastructure for the sound system. "There were originally 1,100 seats, but that number has been reduced to 740," explains Benton Delinger, project manager for Theatre Projects. "The seats are bigger and there is more leg room, as well as better sightlines."
To improve the sightlines on the orchestra level, the floor was re-raked and new wooden platforms were put in at the back (two layers of 3/4" plywood with sound-deadening material inside). "In adhering to the historic guidelines, everything can be removed if desired," notes Delinger. "It all fits into the existing structural framework." The excavation under the theatre helped facilitate the new rake on the orchestra level.
The 450 seats in the orchestra are divided into a center section and two side sections with two side aisles. In the balcony, 280 seats are in a continental seating configuration, with 40 seats across and seven rows deep. There are a total of 15 wheelchair locations throughout the theatre (orchestra boxes, rear orchestra, rear balcony), and some seats have removable armrests to allow people to slide from a wheelchair into a theatre seat.
A very steep rake was needed in order to improve the sightlines in the balcony. "The row-to-row height was increased dramatically," Delinger says. The new seats were provided by Irwin Seating, and the original side boxes were also restored, and have new individual chairs.
The new upholstery is reddish brown, in keeping with the house curtain (provided by I. Weiss), carpet, and wall color. "Designer Tony Walton consulted with us on the interior design," Delinger says. "He wanted more red in the interiors. It's a rich vibrant color with a good sense of theatricality and it works well with the murals in the theatre."
To broaden the interior color palette, preservation specialist Francesca Russo picked up blue and green tints from the theatre's murals to add to the warm red as she designed the public spaces in both the original theatre and the new upper levels. "We wanted to get back to finishes and fixtures that are relevant to the original neo-classical design," says Russo, who also didcustom designs for the carpet, seat fabric, and draperies.
One of the most beautiful decorative elements in the theatre is the series of painted murals that sit above the proscenium and in the sail vaults on either side of the stage. These also had been painted over, so EverGreene Painting Studios was called in to restore them as well as do all of the decorative painting and gold leaf work in the theatre.
To restore the murals, they first removed the overpaint and evaluated what was left underneath. They then painstakingly filled in the missing paint and added a final glaze. "The right sail vault mural was missing, so the new one is based on an existing photograph. The color palette was taken from the other murals," says Merwede.
"We were also very careful in how we put in new lighting positions, in terms of the historic guidelines," Delinger adds. These include new boom positions, a new pipe rail with platform access high along the side walls of the theatre above the balcony and ending neatly at the architectural structure that supports the boxes.
"This had to be carefully placed in zones without filigree or fancy plaster," notes Delinger. There is also a motorized truss (controlled from the stage) placed above the front of the proscenium arch, as well as new rigging points closer to the proscenium to support loudspeakers and other equipment as needed.
Barbizon Lighting provided systems integration, equipment, project management, and installation solutions for the performance lighting system, house lighting system, and four individual architectural lighting systems. They worked directly for Dooley Electric in conjunction with Theatre Projects Consultants, Domingo Gonzalez Associates (architectural lighting), Ryder Construction, GCA Engineering, and the Roundabout on the project.
"The first order of business was to evaluate the various systems and in conjunction with Theatre Projects, develop value engineering and installation solutions," says John Gebbie, project manager for Barbizon. "The main obstacle was fitting state-of-the-art lighting equipment into the theatre without disturbing the historic elements. Every control station, outlet box, and cable run was scrutinized."
Barbizon supplied a complete Electronic Theatre Controls (ETC) dimming and control system, which is controlled by an ETC Obsession II 1,500-channel Single Processor System. The Obsession outputs DMX over ethernet to an ETC Remote Interface Unit. A hardwired DMX line between the console and dimmer racks has also been installed as a backup. Both signals are merged together by an ETC DMX Merger and sent to the dimmer racks. The system utilizes ETCLink and advanced features for full dimmer status reporting at the console.
The facility has been wired with an ethernet distribution system to be used with ETC Network Nodes. These nodes will provide multiple DMX outputs, as well as connections for remote focus, remote video, and ETCLink. "Ethernet was chosen for its cost-effectiveness and ease of installation," Gebbie says. "An ethernet-based system allows for future integration into the anticipated Advanced Control Network (ACN) protocol that was a major factor when we first evaluated this project." This system is also Ethernet Category Five-certified.
Custom power distribution devices were provided and located throughout the theatre. Outlet boxes included stagepin outputs, Veam multipin outputs, or a combination of the two. Many of the boxes were located in architecturally sensitive locations. "Coordinating with the consultant and contractor, we relocated and combined several boxes to allow for a less obtrusive appearance and easier installation," says Gebbie.
A flexible house- and worklight system was designed to operate in four different modes: show, work, rehearsal, and night. "The show mode is for performances and will not allow any outside access to anyone but the console operator," Gebbie reports. "In contrast, the work mode is designed for the cleanup crew and allows access to simple, single push-button control stations." Each mode has been programmed into the ETC Unison architectural control system and can be modified using ETC Light Manager Software.
The house lighting system utilizes dimmers within the performance lighting system. A Union Connector custom branch circuit breaker panel was provided to allow multiple branch circuits to be powered by 2.4kW or 6.0kW ETC Sensor dimmers. An ETC emergency lighting transfer system has been provided for switching loads from normal power to emergency power in case of a power loss to the dimmer racks.
The worklight system is controlled through the Unison control system and powered from a GE TLC Relay Panel with Gray Interface Relay Drivers and a DMX Interface Card. A custom cue lighting system was designed by ETC in conjunction with Theatre Projects. This is the second installation for this system. A custom cuelight controller interfaces with a cuelight contactor panel, providing control and power to 120V neon-indicator lights installed in custom boxes. Presets are stored in a dedicated Unison Processor.
In addition to the main theatre systems, Barbizon also provided four standalone ETC Unison dimming and control systems for the 42nd Street Lobby, the Cellar Lounge, the VIP Room, and the Penthouse Lobby. Each system is made up of an ETC Unison dimmer rack and various custom control stations. ETC Alternate Source Transfer Switches were provided for a means of switching to emergency power.
"As the systems integrator, we were required to work very closely with the manufacturers, contractors, consultants, and engineers, as well as the Roundabout, to design, integrate, and implement the systems so that they adhered to the historic and architectural requirements and the New York City electrical code," says Gebbie. "The systems were modified and re-engineered several times due to the demanding requirements." Barbizon also provided field supervision on the project.
The lighting control booth is located at the rear of the balcony and provisions have been made for a preview table with control board monitors that can be placed in the rear seats. There are also positions in the orchestra to accommodate tech tables during rehearsal periods.
To install a new rigging system, the roof of the flytower was raised 4' yet remains below the height of the parapet wall atop the theatre. Pook Diemont & Ohl, Inc. furnished and installed the new rigging system, which consists of 35 single-purchase counterweight linesets (1,200lb limit on each set) with a new T-bar and lock rail. Pook Diemont & Ohl did most of the steel work at its shop in the Bronx, while the pulleys, rope locks, motors, and controls were furnished by JR Clancy.
Pook Diemont & Ohl also subcontracted Staging Concepts to provide trap platforms and three removable platforms whose shapes follow the curve of the seating. The platforms can be used in three configurations: at floor level to hold an extra row of seats; at stage level to create an apron; or taken out to create an orchestra pit 40' wide (the width of the stage) by 10' deep.
Also on the PD&O shopping list was a motorized fire curtain manufactured by Thermatex in South Carolina, and motorized rigging for the auditorium chandelier. "The most interesting thing we provided are two front-of-house motors, one to raise and lower a lighting truss and the other to raise and lower a safety beam that a person can ride wearing a harness to focus lights on the truss out over the seating," explains Ted Ohl, principal of Pook Diemont & Ohl. "This is an updated and safe system with elaborate machinery."
The safety beam is like a steel I-beam, but as Ohl points out, it is actually a W10 x 17, which is a 10"-tall beam weighing 17lbs per foot. This one is 36' long and moves alongside a 40'-wide truss (a primary front-of-house lighting position) that can hold 300lbs of equipment when loaded to capacity. The two motors that move the truss and beam are 2hp brake motors with single groove drums and numerous cables muled to the correct drop locations. The capacity of each motor is 1,800lbs.
"We have taken this from a very classic Broadway theatre and brought it up to date with current New York standards," says Ohl. "The new machinery fits very well in the envelope of the old space."
On the audio side, the Roundabout is set up more like a road house, with specific equipment brought in on a per-show basis. To help define an infrastructure, Engineering Harmonics of Toronto was brought in to specify a paging and performance monitor system as well as an intercom tie-line system, an infrared hearing-assistance system, and a complete tie-line (or dry-line) system for line-level audio, mic-level audio, and loudspeaker-level audio for the positions under the balcony and in surround-sound positions. A portable intercom system can be plugged into the dry line as required.
"The tie-line system allows a production to move signals from one place to another more conveniently," explains Dave Clark, production sound and communications designer for Engineering Harmonics. "Our intent was to allow each production to be installed without compromising the integrity of the architecture. They don't have to chip away at any surfaces. We worked with the acoustics to make sure the room meets the requirements for sound reinforcement." Hanging positions for loudspeakers are available in front of the proscenium arch as well as on the forestage truss.
The paging system has separate zones for lobby and production positions, with a sound distribution system taking feeds from the mics or mixing console to send the show to the dressing rooms. There is a Relay Logic override system, which has been hand-wired to do certain tasks that meet the company's needs (so that actors can turn down the volume of the show but still hear the paging system, for example). "There is also a telephone dial-in system for paging during fit-up and load-in when people are in temporary offices," notes Clark.
The lobby areas can be divided into separate zones for paging, as well as background music, which is provided via a separate rack with cassette player, CD player, and tuner. "This can be run by the house manager," Clark adds. "We like to give them a separate system so they can work without begging help from the production staff."
Clark also specified a distribution system for performance video, allowing viewing for latecomers as well as backstage positions, the stage manager position, production tables, and dressing room stairwells. "You can also pull in wiring for production video on a show-by-show basis," he says.
"The base system is flexible enough to grow with them, and it can be augmented as needed," Clark adds. Part of this flexibility comes from a cable-pass system that runs to key spots in the theatre, including the house mixing position and production table positions. Cable passes run from an equipment room at trap level downstage right to the stage and to the traps.
Lou Shapiro of Sound Associates served as project supervisor for the installation of the audio, video, and paging infrastructure. In the lobby areas, this includes Sound Advance CT12-FHT paging loudspeakers with QSC CX302V amplifiers. In the dressing rooms, hallways, and stairwells are Lowell 8C10W-T470 loudspeakers and additional QSC amplifiers. The loudspeakers and amplifiers are driven by Allen & Heath GR1 zone mixers, which control paging points in public and backstage areas.
"The challenge has been taking the designer's drawings and turning them into specific pieces that fit the Roundabout's needs," says Shapiro. "Everything we did complies with their desires, and the priorities are set up so that the systems really work for them."
All of the consultants and designers who worked on this project were confronted with the realities of working within the confines of an existing structure. "The main challenge for everybody," concludes Delinger, "was trying to fit modern equipment into a historic building. But the Roundabout is going to be able to do some great stuff in this theatre."
It's a sight right out of the film Blade Runner--a 13,000-sq.-ft. sign, 70% of it dedicated to a video screen standing seven stories high. Just staring at it s swirling images is enough to induce vertigo in the average spectator. It is, in fact, the largest LED display in the world. Even in overcrowded, overstimulated Times Square, it's enough to make you gasp.
This sign, however, is only the beginning at Nasdaq MarketSite, a new facility dedicated to the stock market that has obsessed America in the last couple of years. With its multiple identities, MarketSite virtually defines the triumph of the convergence economy in Times Square. First of all, there's the sign, a dazzling visual achievement which dwarfs many of its neighbors in one of the world's gaudiest municipal districts. But MarketSite is also a themed exhibition, dedicated to explaining the mysteries of venture capitalism to the uninitiated. Then again, it's also a broadcast facility, where reporters from around the world fill in viewers on the latest data from the digital trading floor. Like everything else in Times Square, it's all about the transformation of information into entertainment--who knew that that the stock market, once considered the most arcane areas of knowledge, could become another family fun center?
Given MarketSite's other, more spectacular attractions--the entertaining visitors' exhibit and that giant sign--its broadcast studio might seem to be the least interesting part of the package. In fact, it provides a most crucial function. News feeds from, say, the New York Stock Exchange feature reporters standing against the background of the world's most famous trading floor. But Nasdaq is the world's first electronic stock market; there is no trading floor as such.
Thus, the broadcast studio provides an attractive place for reporters from all over the world to offer their daily commentaries on the market's activities. The ground-floor studio is a three-story, glass-enclosed facility that looks out onto Times Square. Reporters stand in front of a video wall, supplied by Synelec, consisting of 96 separate screens--each screen shows the current performance of a Nasdaq issuer. (There are seventy-two 40" screens and twenty-four 50" screens.) Information from any combination of companies can be assembled on the screens, to help reporters illustrate their broadcast. Just above the reporters' heads, Nasdaq's famous Custom Logo Ticker passes by, in which companies are identified by their advertising logos, rather than the traditionally obscure ticket symbols, which used a combination of letters and numbers. In addition, the video wall can present other images, including live video feeds from multiple sources.
Tourists and other passersby in the Times Square district can peer through the glass walls of the MarketSite broadcast facility and see reporters from CNNfn, Bloomberg, CBS Marketwatch, CNBC, and dozens of others networks and services at almost any time--the studio is in use at least 12 hours a day. (In what must be the most cutting-edge use of the facility, the Internet service Yahoo does broadcasts which are converted into live streaming video, for net surfers who wish to check on their finances). Multiple simultaneous feeds are possible as well; the studio is equipped with four robotically controlled Hitachi cameras on the main studio floor, plus six more in the reporters' booths located above.
Steve Brill, whose company, Lighting Design Group, provided the original lighting design for the broadcast, specified a combination of ETC and Arri equipment. "I love working with the ETC Source Four ellipsoidals and Arri Softlights," he says. Brill notes that it's always a challenge to design a studio with daylight pouring in, but says, "We color-corrected partially for the daylight, with 1/2 CT Blue filters on the fixtures." More of a challenge, he says, is the fact that the studio has "a very high ceiling--there are a lot of long throws and poor angles from up there. It's very unusual for a TV studio to have a ceiling this high." The studio is also on view to the public, he says, so "We couldn't drop the lights down on rods, because of aesthetic considerations." The solution was to use positions under and over the mezzanine above the studio area. In addition, Brill took some Balcor fluorescent units, which Nasdaq already owned, and placed them in the booths above the studio floor, for shorter throws.
Later on, designer Christien Methot of the firm Design One made some additions to the lighting plot for the studio that allow reporters to move further stage right and left while speaking to the camera. Methot also put in an additional system of backlight to pull reporters out further from the video screens and added fluorescent units to offices occupied by major networks, allowing reporters to broadcast from there as well.
The ETC Express 125 console is used to control the studio lighting. ETC Sensor dimmers are used for the lighting power, with Equi-Tech balanced power for the video wall. Clear-Com equipment makes up the extensive intercom system, including an eight-channel IFB system. Lighting equipment for the studio was supplied by Barbizon.
According to Wayne Chmieleski, manager, broadcast operations for Nasdaq MarketSite, the videowall is also wired for sound, with Tannoy 6.5 PBM self-amplified speakers built into the structure. The on-air talent uses Sennheiser MK50 UHF wireless mics, which were chosen for their highly directional qualities, because of the talent traffic in the studio, which can take in up to five simultaneous standup broadcasts. Chmieleski notes that frequency coordination in the Times Square area is no small task, but adds that ABC and MTV, both of which have broadcast facilities less than block away, have been helpful in working these issues out. Audio mixing is done with a Mackie 32 x 8, selected primarily for its input/output ratios, wide variety of features, low noise, and small footprint--a very important feature in a control room, where space is at a premium. All audio is balanced using Switchcraft connectors with Belden cable primarily used for audio signals (some Canare cable is used as well). In addition, Belden video cable is used, with King's connections, for analog and component-type signals. Excepting the fact that the studio's windows were installed on a slight angle, there is no specialized acoustical treatment within the facility.
Rob Fleischacker, president of Monolith Modular Systems, a professional audio-video systems company, which also worked on the project, adds, "This is not a standard broadcast facility. We have over 10 outbound signals, where most studios have one. Typically, we handle 150 live shots a day." Furthermore, he adds, the studio is prepared to broadcast high-definition, when and if that format becomes a reality. The onset of digital broadcasting will be nothing to worry about at the world's first digital stock market.
Nasdaq offers the public the chance to immerse themselves in a stock market universe with the MarketSite Experience, a high-tech exhibit on the second floor of the MarketSite Tower. It all begins in the lobby of the building, where the Nasdaq gift shop is located and Philips plasma monitors play Nasdaq ads interspersed with computer-generated graphics of stock market questions. New York-based Batwin + Robin created the graphics for the queue line screens.
Visitors ride an elevator to the second floor, where the main part of the exhibit begins. You first enter the Information Stream Tunnel, an experience that puts guests in the data stream that leads to a video display communicating the digital network that is Nasdaq.
The project's conceptual and schematic design was provided by Harout Dedeyan of C&J Partners. Einhorn Yaffee Prescott was responsible for the design development and execution of the project; co-project architects were Jorge Szendiuch and Matt Barhydt of EYP. David Rome, a producer hired by exhibit designer Douglas Gallagher (now Douglas Group), says, "Nasdaq wanted to create a theatrical environment that lets visitors feel as if they were inside the network." Rome, who helped develop exhibits and multimedia installation for NikeTown New York and Science City at Union Station, as well as numerous corporate productions, was brought onto the project in January 1999. "I was hired by DG to work with the designers, clients, and architectural project team," he says. "It was a very aggressive schedule and I was glad to be able to work with a number of vendors that I knew would be able to respond quickly and effectively."
Ann Kale Associates designed the architectural lighting in the space, with Ann Kale serving as DUO (design, use, and operations) consultant, and Carrie Knowlton serving as co-designer. Rome tapped lighting designers Ted Mather and Anita Jorgensen of Mather/Jorgensen Lighting Design to specifically light the tunnel and theatre area as an augmentation of Kale's architectural lighting in the rest of the space. "I knew he'd do a good job of making it a dynamic space," Rome says of Mather, who worked with Rome on the Science City project at Kansas City's famous train station.
"The tunnel was a way of directing traffic flow, to get you into the theatre," says Mather. "It was like a pipe of information, with data zipping through it." Mather conveyed "data zip" by using fiber-optic lights and dimmable neon in sections of 6', which chased from one end of the tunnel to the other. "We used fiber optics because Nasdaq uses them in the real network and because it gives it a charged feeling," Mather says. The dimmable neon was designed and built by neon advisor Kenny Greenberg, who was subcontracted by lighting supplier Production Arts/PRG; fiber optics are TPR fiber-optic DMX metal halide illuminators with 210 fiber points.
The tunnel and other exhibit elements in MarketSite Experience were designed by Douglas Group and built by Exhibits International of Toronto. Project designer Seth Frankel of DG Washington says the design of the tunnel was impacted by Exhibits International's build approach. "With them, we developed a truss system that was used with all 2x2 steel welded frames," he says, adding that the steel structure freestands on the floor with cast-fiberglass panels hanging above it.
After zipping down the tunnel, visitors enter the Global Connections Theatre space. Mather designed a circular truss at the tunnel's exit, "shaped in the way we wanted people to walk." ETC Source Four Jr. 50-degree ellipsoidals provide pools of light in the theatre, and two neon ellipses above the rig echo its shape. "It made a nice slope to the space, instead of a big square grid up there," Mather says. The LD programmed the lights in the tunnel and the theatre using an ETC Expression 3 Lighting Playback Controller.
An eight-minute video created by Batwin + Robin plays on a 7-1/2'-tall, 20'-wide Draper video screen backed by two Barco BG6300 projectors. "Actually, the video is more like 16 minutes long," Robin Silvestri, principal (with Linda Batwin) of Batwin + Robin jokes, "because we have two screens with two courses running simultaneously," referring to several story lines running onscreen with computer graphics, and elements from both floating from screen to screen. The video aspects were shot in high-def by Sundance DiGiovanni; the computer graphics were created by Liz Daggar. Elle Kamihara was producer. Silvestri, who also served as executive producer of the video, notes, "We chose to go with high-def because, even though we weren't going to be playing it back in high def, there were source materials that Nasdaq could repurpose and use later on, and because there's a certain quality you see that you don't get from a regular beta shoot. The color and textures are more vivid, too."
A mandate from Nasdaq was that the video should appeal to a broad range of people, Silvestri says. "From their early research, Nasdaq discovered that the average person who comes to Times Square is an international visitor. Also, they are a global trading company, so it's in keeping with their marketing strategy." Therefore, the vignettes are set in the near future in such locations as Hong Kong, Brazil, Northern California, and Europe, but everything was shot in New York. "We had to support what we were shooting, the close-ups and things, with some other graphic and visual material in the background that would make things better visually and add layers of information to the piece that we couldn't cover with dialogue," Silvestri says. "Hong Kong was shot downtown at the Battery Park tunnel, and we intercut stock footage of Hong Kong. Brazil was a Long Island beach intercut with Rio shots in the background. We even used MarketSite as an office space."
Silvestri adds that the video postproduction time was nearly as long as production time, because of the layering of graphics and images. "First we edited the video footage," she says. "Then we took all the computer effects and graphics and imported them into our editing computer [a Media 100] and inserted the live-action footage, then synched the two screens up together." Effects rendering was done using Adobe Aftereffects.
Scharff Weisberg was systems integrator on the project, providing audio and video equipment and systems control via a Peavey MediaMatrix for sound and a Dataton system overall. EAW JF-60 and JBL speakers, Crest 4601 and 8001, JBL, and QSC 3301 power amps, and Sennheiser MZQ6 mics were some of the other audio components used by Scharff Weisberg.
Nasdaq and financial phrases in five languages are also used in the audio component of the tunnel, which Batwin + Robin designed, and on glass display panels next to the video that illuminate after the presentation is finished. Four High End Technobeam(R) automated luminaires with five custom glass templates each float the words onto the panels, which have fiber-optic bars embedded in them. Eight ETC Source Four ellipsoidals project circuitry patterns onto the panels as well. "We really went in circles to find an appropriate glass that was both reflective and would receive light and be able to project images to and through," Frankel says. "It's by a company out of York, PA, called Rudy Art Glass. It's laminated, with glass on the outside, then a plastic sheet, and another glass with a texture and tinting on the other side. It has a somewhat dichroic glass on the outside. Then, on the other side, it has a marbleized or textured glass with another coating. The fiber optics are in bars along the side of the panel."
When the theatre space brightens up, guests proceed to MarketSite Game Experience, 12 computer kiosks where visitors can play a touch-screen interactive stock market game. It may be the only time losing money on the stock market is enjoyable; Nasdaq "gives" you a certain amount of money to invest and a selection of several companies' stocks to buy and sell within a predetermined timeframe. RGA designed the interactive game software (Elizabeth Rankich was producer); Scharff Weisberg was responsible for the hardware, and also built a custom speaker system for each kiosk.
Six more computer kiosks allow the visitor to take a cyber-trip via high-speed T1 lines to Nasdaq's website before stopping by the Parting Shot, a digital postcard station where visitors can have their faces superimposed on the Nasdaq video sign on Times Square.
"We were looking for something that would be a great giveaway item," Rome says. "Times Square is all about big video screens and the heart of the media, and here's a chance for people to get their picture on the largest video screen in Times Square." Rome chose a Kodak system called the Fantasy Theatre for the photo station.
Only in New York, kids.
In the world of network morning chat shows, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. First, NBC's Today Show garnered spectacular ratings with its glassed-in ground floor studio, which allows Katie Couric and Matt Lauer to step outside and interact with the tourists in Rockefeller Plaza. Suddenly, all three network shows are doing something similar. However, ABC's Good Morning America, determined to outdo its rivals, now broadcasts from the heart of Times Square, in an elaborate theme-drawn, two-level studio that has become a major tourist attraction in its own right.
Times Square Studios Ltd (TSSL), as the venue is called, is not only the home of Good Morning, America. It is wholly owned by Disney, ABC's corporate parent, and is also host to several episodes a week of the ABC newsmagazine 20/20. The Disney synergy doesn't end there: Located two blocks away, at the corner of 42nd Street and Broadway, is the ESPN Zone sports bar/restaurant named after Disney's popular sports network. Each Sunday morning, the ESPN show Sports Reporters is broadcast from there. However, the only broadcast elements in the ESPN Zone are the show's talent and a light grid, supplied by Barbizon Lighting. Using extensive fiber-optic connections, editing, lighting, and sound control are handled back at Times Square Studios.
Walt Disney Studio Operations, with advanced technical support from the Walt Disney Imagineering and Research Group, created this new facility. Times Square Studios is a combination of broadcast venue and themed attraction. The main studio is located on the second floor--viewers of Good Morning America are familiar with shots of Diane Sawyer and Charles Gibson that feature Times Square in the background. The ground-level studio is themed to resemble a classic New York subway station. The space allows eager tourists to gather in all forms of weather and take part in the show, chatting with Sawyer, Gibson, and weatherman Tony Perkins.
The studio has one of the most spectacular exteriors in Times Square, with its giant electronic marquee, featuring a nine-ribbon electronic billboard and a Sony JumboTron(R) screen with full moving color graphic images. The ribbons make up the largest curved LED electronic billboard in the US; they total 3,400 sq. ft. with a capacity of 24-bit color (16.7 million colors) that can accept real-time video feed along with standard and full-motion graphic displays. The JumboTron also is the largest in the US to be used as an outdoor billboard--585 sq. ft. display in widescreen format. The entire sign consumes as much power as 3,000 to 4,000 TV sets. Above and below the marquee, the windows that face Times Square are composed of the largest anti-reflective-coated, multilayered trapezoidal glass in the world. This nine-layer glass provides a high degree of noise isolation, keeping the studio protected from the chaos in the streets. On the ground floor, the glass is removable--each six-ton window rides on a cushion of air and can be moved by two people--to make a flexible studio space.
The lighting for Times Square Studios was originally designed by Steven Brill, Jane Head, and Dennis Size of the Lighting Design Group [see also the accompanying Nasdaq MarketSite story on page 32] and was supplied by Production Arts/PRG; PA also served as supervising contractor on the project. The studio features many major technical innovations, among them a moving hoist system creating by the companies Arri and transtechnik, in partnership. According to Jeff Hartnett, manager of engineering and technical operations for Times Square Studios, "It's totally new: they're not self-climbing hoists with a gear box and motor. There are 46 moving hoists on the main stage with a ceiling height just shy of 30'. The motor system is installed at the ceiling with a drum and cabling system running the battens up or down. The cables coil up in the ceiling, next to the motor, which means there's not as much bulk going up and down. They can support up to 190lbs, over and above the weight of the pipe. Each of the battens supports 20A and 60A dimmable circuits. To operate the system, we have a rolling lectern desk called a Voyager with a flat touchscreen. When you boot up the system, it displays a graphic representation of the ceiling system, with all of the hoists." With the system's memory, you can store trim heights, allowing staff to reconfigure the grid for a different show, then quickly return to the previous setup. Pook Diemont & Ohl, Inc. was full contractor for all motorized and fixed rigging systems. The company designed and installed structural steel for the studios and worked with Arri and transtechnik on the development of the motorized rigging system.
Another innovation: Good Morning America is broadcast from 7-9am, during which, depending on the time of year, the intensity of daylight changes considerably. Thus the studio has, says Hartnett, "an extensive shade system, which is driven using external DMX control, that allows running the shades with our ETC lighting board. There is a blackout, two neutral-density, and a proprietary variable-density shade, developed by Walt Disney Imagineering for each of the windows. With this last shade system, a video operator has constant variable control over the amount of light that enters the camera frame. With the talent and set inside staying the same, what's behind them can be made to disappear."
The main studio, says Hartnett, uses a wide variety of lighting equipment, including Arri fresnels, Altman scoops and ministrips, LTM Peppers, Lowel-Light Prolights, baby softs from both Arri and Lowel-Light, a wide array of ETC Source Four units, and Chimera lightbanks, with honeycomb grids. There are also a number of HMI units from both Arri and Desisti, to help match the studio light levels with the daylight outside. Some additional units from Mole-Richardson, Strand, and DeSisti complete the package. Control is via an ETC Obsession 2 RPU system, with ETC Sensor dimmer racks.
In fact, Hartnett notes, there are three ETC lighting consoles: the main console, a backup, and a third unit for the ground-floor studio. This console is currently used to run an additional system of Martin Mac 500 moving-head profile spots. This system is used when live musical acts (recent examples include Faith Hill, Santana, and InSync) perform, typically during the Friday morning broadcast.
Of course, GMA often includes remote broadcasts from the traffic island across the street. "We're coming up with beltpack systems using, for example, pocket PARs on stands," says Hartnett, who adds, "We also have two 20A circuits on the island, supporting primarily audio and video feeds. Four conduits were run out there, landing at a square manhole we constructed." Finally, there are units built into the underside of the studio's marquee, with Arri equipment that is controlled from inside, to light interviews with pedestrians.
Sound in the studio is controlled with a Solid State Logic Aysis Air console. This new product offers reduced wiring complexity, with 95 channels of digital audio on a single coaxial cable. Also, all settings including routing assignments and settings for faders, EQ dynamic,s and effects, can be stored and instantly recalled, selectively or globally. The control room monitoring uses self-powered Genelec 1031s. Times Square Studios uses Sennheiser SK50 and SKM 5000 transmitters for lavalier and handheld RF microphones, Vega UHF wireless intercom systems, and a large UHF IFB (interruptible foldback) system by Lectrosonic. These systems were installed by Total RF Inc. The downstairs studio is about to acquire a system of eight self-powered Meyer UPM-1P speakers supplied by ProMix, which are to be hooked up to an Ashly VCX-80 level control system.
With its spectacular marquee, themed audience area, and innovative broadcast venue, Times Square Studios is admirably equipped to help ABC greet each morning. All you need to add is Diane Sawyer.
Even as trend-watchers predict the imminent demise of the themed restaurant, a bold new example of the genre has opened in Times Square. WWF New York is designed to take advantage of the rage for professional wrestling that has swept the nation in the last few years. Owned by the McMahon family, which has propelled the World Wrestling Federation to a level of unparalleled popularity, WWF New York offers a central New York destination for tourists who want their dinner spiced with images of Chyna, Mankind, and Stone Cold Steve Austin.
However, WWF New York is not only a restaurant. It's yet another expression of the convergence mentality that is so typical of the new Times Square attractions. The WWF is a restaurant, a retail store, and a nightclub--both for dancing and live performance. In addition, it's wired for broadcast. If it proves successful, it's positioned to become the nerve center of the WWF universe.
As designed by Chris Smith of CMS Architects, WWF New York is located in the Paramount building, in the space where, decades ago, stars such as Frank Sinatra made teenagers swoon. Guests enter the retail space on the first floor, where all sorts of WWF memorabilia can be purchased. The stairway leads to the restaurant, which is located below street level (there is also a games arcade downstairs). The dining area has a metallic industrial look that is perfect for the WWF's tough guy (and gal) sensibility. (One dining area, called the Cage, is surrounded by chain-link fence.) There is a large bar, and to one side, a stage and dance floor where live bands can play or DJs can spin records for dancing.
Clair Brothers, located in Lititz, PA, did the lighting, audio, and video design and installation at the WWF. Bill Simmons, lighting designer for the project, says his goal was "a sort of elegant theatricality." For the retail space, he adds, this meant "finding a happy medium between good clean retail lighting and theatrical lighting." Thus the area features a wide array of architectural and entertainment fixtures, including a large number of ETC Source Fours (in 19-degree, 26-degree, and 36-degree units, and Source Four PARs), plus PAR-38s manufactured by James Thomas Engineering, and some MR-16 tracklights, which the designer inherited with the project. The PAR-38s, says Simmons, are built with "an elongated snout," which allows them to hold dichroic filters or gel for long periods of time without burning them out. Also part of the mix are Martin RoboScan 518 compact rotating pattern scanners, to give a sense of flash and theatricality to the space, and Clay Paky VIP 300s to project WWF images and logos all over the room (Apollo Design Technology created the custom projections for these units).
Simmons' concept of elegant theatricality extends to the dining area, where lighting is used for color and definition. Most of the dining tables are in long rows, so Simmons had SSRC, the South Carolina-based manufacturer of electrical lighting distribution equipment, custom-create raceways for more of the James Thomas PAR-38s; these units are arranged in three circuits, with three separate functions. "There are table lights, in no color," the designer says. "They're focused tightly, so you can see your food. Between them are a set of lights in reds and blues, which are focused on the aisles, to give patrons a sense of the theatrical. Then there's a circuit of accent lights" for the pillars and other architectural details and memorabilia.
There are also other forms of special-effects lighting built into the bars and some tables. The knee walls around the main bar have glass tops with LED strips from Color Corp. built into them. The back bars use fiber optics by Fiberstars to illuminate the bottles; the sides and top are lit by fiber optics from Laser Media. A dozen tables in the nightclub area feature built-fiber optics from Super Vision.
The nightclub area features a lot of entertainment units, including 16 Martin RoboScan 918s, four Martin Mac 550s, seven Martin Mac 600s, six Mac 250s, and four Mac 300s, plus some Martin Punisher and Robozap disco effects, and three High End Systems Cyberlights, 24 High End Trackspots, and Altman Zipstrips. There are also ETC Source Fours and Source Four PARs, Altman 1kW and 2kW fresnels and PAR-46 ACLs, and Wybron Coloram scrollers. Other items include Martin hazers and JR Clancy rigging. The 18' x 30' projection screen that drops in front of the proscenium is by Stewart and the fiber-optic drop depicting the WWF logo is by Main Light.
Patrick Dierson, who worked with Simmons on the project and programmed the entertainment lighting, says, "All of the units are run off a [Martin] Case Pro 1 Plus controller. The Case is one of the most underrated consoles in the industry right now. I've used it on a ton of gigs; it's particularly good for disco applications. It's flexible for playback, so you can hand it off to any kind of operator." Dierson adds that, in the retail area, the RoboScans are controlled by an Elektralite CP3 playback unit, which has three set programs for three different times of day. In addition, there is an ETC Expression 250 for theatrical lighting in the live space and an ETC Expression 300 LPC for automated show control throughout the entire venue that is tied to an AMX system. An ETC Unison control system allows for manual control of the lighting at different areas throughout the venue. Approximately 400 ETC Sensor dimmers are used, with an additional 56 non-dim relays manufactured by ILC.
There are many other pieces of the lighting puzzle. The retail area also features box trussing by Tomcat, Halo downlights, and Monorail-style track with MR-16 heads by Tech Lighting, and custom LED strips for the arches leading to the restaurant area. The arcade area features Altman Micro PARs and more Thomas PAR-38s. There are also many architectural fixtures from a variety of companies, including RSA, Halo, Glass Illuminations, Flos, Neo-Ray, CSL, and Juno, with accessories by Devon Glass, Rosco, GAM Products, and City Theatrical.
The audio system was designed by Clair Brothers' Jim Devenny, a 25-year veteran of both touring and installations, including 8 x R3Ts, 4 x R3TWs, 2 x R4III-Ws bass cabinets, 2 x R2, 2 x P4s, and 44 x LS-10s. BSS Soundweb 9088ML systems processors are used. Control units include a Yamaha PM-4000 mixing console, a Yamaha SPX990 multi-effects unit, a DBX 160 compressor/limiter, an Olympic 117-XD drive/playback rack, a Tascam DA20 DAT machine, and a Tascam CD301 CD player and 112RmkII cassette deck. The monitor system includes an Olympic 312-XD portable electronics rack, KT DN360 equalizers, Yamaha SPX990 multi-effects units, Aphex 622 two-channel noise gates, DBX 160A compressor/limiters, and Clair Brothers Audio/QSC amps.
For the stage area, sound equipment includes several kinds of Shure microphones (such models as U124D/B87, B581A, SM57, B52, and SM81), along with AKG 391B and Beyer M88 mics as well, and many pieces of equipment from Clair Brothers, including Active and Passive Wedge Series monitors. The monitor console is a Crest Century series. The production intercom system includes components from Telex, Clair Brothers, West Penn, and Symetrix, while the portable DJ system includes items from Soundcraft, Technics, Stanton, and Denon.
WWF also has an enormous video component, designed by Marty Ludwin. In the retail area, suspended from the ceiling, there's a large video cube wall, made up of 12 Sony RVP 511D 50" projection cubes. The restaurant contains a video wall also made up of 12 more Sony 50" projection cubes, a pillar consisting of 45 Dotronix 27" RGB-composite monitors, and a video monitor banner featuring 12 Dotronix 20" RGB-composite monitors. There are also three video projectors from Digital Projection, one (a 7gv) of them throwing a 16' x 27' image on the screen in front of the stage. There are also over 50 video screens ranging in size from 9" to 61" spread around the venue; all of them, naturally, feature clips of the WWF gang in action. The video and audio routing for the venue is the Couger PESA Switching system. The video wall processors are two Electrosonic PicBloc 3s and two Electrosonic Vectors. The main show control for the entire venue is a custom AMX system.
One thing is clear about WWF New York--it is a work in progress. The MacMahon family, which originally licensed the space to a restaurant specialist, has purchased the venue back, and already there are said to be plans to develop it further. The venue is wired for broadcast, and has already been used for broadcast segments on WWF's Pay-Per-View shows. As long as the nation continues to be fascinated by the antics of the WWF crew, the space known as WWF New York is likely to keep going to extremes.
Set to open this summer, the Duke on 42nd Street is an intimate 199-seat theatre nestled on the second floor of the New 42nd Street Studios. This new $29.6 million, 10-story building has a wealth of rehearsal studios and offices tucked behind a stylish glass-and-metal facade. The theatre's namesake is Doris Duke, whose charitable foundation provided a major grant for the project.
"The Duke is a box, but it's not black," says Christopher Buckley, vice president production and construction, for the New 42nd Street Inc., owner of the building. Instead, the theatre is decorated in gray, yellow, and terra cotta. "It will function not only as a theatre, but also as a studio," says Buckley, explaining the choice of colors.
The theatre itself is a two-story space with a mezzanine or wraparound gallery for support areas such as a green room, dressing rooms, storage, offices, and three control booths (lighting, sound, and projection). A small circular staircase leads from the main floor to the gallery level. On the north wall of the space, there are crossover corridors on both levels.
"We started out building a rehearsal studio on the second floor, but the board of directors and staff felt we should put a theatre in the building, so we created this space," Buckley says. The full footprint of the room is 50' x 65' with a clear, double-height space (with 19.5' ceilings) measuring 42' x 47'. Access is via two elevators--one for the public only, and a larger one, which can also be used for freight. A hatch in one section of the glass along the front wall allows longer items to be pulled in. A cable door allows remote video truck access and hookup.
The flexible seating in the space comes from Seating Structures Ltd in the UK. "This is the only fully integrated system we could find," says Buckley, who explains that the package includes upholstered, self-rising seats, platforms, and all the necessary attachments. "There is also a comfortable 33" depth from seat to seat," he adds.
The seats can be used in three basic configurations: end-on; tennis-court, with audience on two sides; and 3/4 thrust. When not in use, the seats can be stored behind doors at the southernmost end of the room, in a 16'-deep area under the control booths.
To give the space even more flexibility, a series of 18 hoist points, each with a 1,000lb point load, are placed on the ceiling above the grid to enable the hanging of truss via motors. A package of soft goods to dress the space (velours, cycs, and scrims) will be provided by I. Weiss.
The lighting package, provided by Production Arts/PRG, includes an ETC Expression 3-400 console and 139 ETC 2.4k and six 6k Sensor dimmers located in a primary dimmer room for the theatre (two additional dimmer rooms serve the exterior facade lighting). "We went with ETC for reliability and ease of use," Buckley notes. "Nothing exotic, but we will have a lot of different users and this is equipment that everyone is pretty familiar with. We wanted to provide a pretty serious sound and lighting package to help make the space more affordable for non-profits."
The lighting fixture package includes 156 ETC Source Four ellipsoidals (twenty-four 50-degrees, fifty-four 36-degrees, fifty-four 26-degrees, twenty-four 19-degrees), 36 ETC Source Four PARs, 30 Strand 6" Fresnelites, and one Lycian 1275 1.2k HMI followspot.
"Everything is meant to move within the space, nothing is fixed," explains Buckley. In terms of lighting, this means no hard circuits, but rather multicable running across a full-room grid and terminating outside of the dimmer room. Cable pipes, trays, and pass-throughs are strategically located on both levels and the gallery floor, so that cables can easily be run anyplace in the space.
The sound system includes EAW speakers (two JF200s, two JF260s, two SB150 subs with MK100 processors, four SM200 monitors, and four JF80s), a Soundcraft Live eight-bus, 32-input console, a Yamaha Pro-3 digital reverb unit, two DBX 1231 equalizers, a Furman PL-Plus power conditioner, one Aphex 105 Quad gate, two Aphex 108 two-channel compressors, and four Crown K-2 amplifiers. Playback equipment includes a Denon DN T-620 CD-cassette combination, Denon M-991R and Denon DMD-1300P mini-disk players. The Clear-Com intercom system has an MS232 two-channel main station, a RM 220 two-channel remote station, and six RS501 beltpacks.
The Soundcraft console can be located in the control booth or moved, along with the front-end rack, to mixing stations throughout the room. The speakers can also be moved as needed. Peter George consulted on acoustics, while the equipment and systems integration for the audio was provided by Audio Production Services.
A two-window box office, concession stand, and public restrooms are located on the main floor of the theatre and can be reached by stairs or elevator from the main lobby. There are two dressing rooms on this level that are dedicated to the theatre; others on the mezzanine level can also be used by the studios on the floor above.
Designer Ming Cho Lee consulted on the design of the theatre. "In the original design there were no side galleries," Buckley points out. "Ming insisted we add them for better access and a better design look. This actually gives us more flexibility and helps with the acoustics."
The Duke on 42nd Street is one of the main attractions at the New 42nd Street Studios. Designed by Platt Byard Dovell Architects, the building has a sleek glass and brushed stainless-steel facade.The 84,000-sq.-ft. building will serve as the headquarters for the New 42nd Street Inc. as well as provide office and studio space to various performing arts groups. The ground floor incorporates the lobby to the adjacent American Airlines Theatre (the new home of the Roundabout which actually sits on 43rd Street) and a retail space.
Anne Militello of LA-based Vortex Lighting has designed exterior lighting that transforms the facade of the structure at night. "The facade has etched stainless-steel blades that look like louvers, with holes that allow the light to pass through them," says Militello. "It has the look of holographic foil when lit." To increase the dramatic appearance of the facade, the inside of the windows will be covered with a scrim 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 168 Altman Exterior 575 Starpars with dichroic color from Rosco and Special FX Lighting, coupled with Elliptipar fluorescent lamps and 42 Sterner 400W metal halide fixtures on the inside. Five High End Systems EC-1(TM)s will wash the facade with color, while a 170' section of TIR LightPipe stretches from the ground to the roof as a 175' spire, or an off-center spine. It frames the left edge of the building and is fed color by seven ETC Irideon(TM) AR500(TM)s. The exterior lighting is controlled by 86 ETC 1.8k Sensor dimmers and an ETC Expression 3 Lighting Playback Controller.
"It's kinetic and it's flashing," says Militello. "It's really a big abstract sign." In fact, one of the criteria of the 42nd Street Now! plan is to have a certain percentage of illuminated signage on the facades of the renovated buildings. "We wanted our signage to be art, rather then commercial," Militello explains. 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 EC1s at night, creating bands of diagonal and horizontal light.
The building also offers a range of 14 column-free studios with 13' ceilings (large studios measure 49' x 58', medium studios measure 35' x 49', small studios measure 15' x 18', two third-floor studios measure 39' x 35' and 39' x 58', and a practice room on the ninth floor measures 9' x 11'). All studios and the Duke have sprung wooden floors, with Rosco Adagio flooring in a majority of the studios and portable Rosco flooring available for the others.
In addition to adding the Duke as a valuable new theatre venue in the Times Square mix, the New 42nd Street Studios will be a vibrant and active place with performing artists using the offices and studios in the building both night and day.
One of the interesting features of most of the new Times Square area attractions is how they tend to celebrate New York's past and future at the same time. Thus high-tech forms of entertainment are often found in environments that celebrate New York's history as a magnet for amusement seekers. Nowhere is this more so than at Broadway City, a games arcade located on 42nd Street, in the E-Walk complex that includes the Loews multiplex cinema and will include the lobby of the Westin New York Hotel when it opens in 2002.
As designed by Lee Jablin of Harman Jablin Architects (who worked with the venue's president, Dick Simon, to create the interior and theming design) and produced by Lexington Scenery and Props, Broadway City is a visually giddy tribute to the fun side of pre-WW II New York. Visitors enter the arcade through a 25' replica of a 1946 Wurlitzer jukebox. They then progress through a series of "neighborhoods," which contain various types of games.
Broadway City's interior is a dense collage of New York landmarks. First comes the West Side Highway, which, naturally, features racing games, or the New York Public Library, for Ms. Pac-Man. Then it's up to the second floor, in the Empire State Building elevator, where the Brooklyn Bridge awaits. Up there, you see a 3D version of the famous 30s photograph showing construction workers enjoying their lunch atop a construction girder. Also on the second floor is a replica of the famous Cyclone roller coaster from Coney Island. In this area is also the Max Flight Virtual Reality Cyber Coaster, as well as many carnival games. Then, step through a mockup of the Washington Square Arch (above) into Greenwich Village, where the arcade's collection of pinball machines is housed. The Stadium, which looks like an old-fashioned ballpark, houses sports-themed games.
The Cedar Grove, NJ-based firm Creative Realities installed all the themed elements in Broadway City, and was responsible for all the low-voltage systems, including audio, video, control, alarm, surveillance, network, gamecard reader systems, and telecommunications. According to Jason Friedman of Creative Realities, the sound lineup for the venue includes QSC amps, Shure wireless mics (for parties and live presentations), and a BSS Soundweb system. Creative Realities was not involved in the lighting, which uses little or nothing in the way of entertainment industry products.
AMC Theatres has just unveiled its most spectacular cinema showcase to date with the opening of the Empire 25 Theatres in Times Square, featuring 25 screens that utilize EAW cinema loudspeaker systems exclusively.
The historic venue, first opened as a live performance space in 1912, was converted to a cinema in 1942, but fell into disrepair in the mid-80s.
AMC Theatres rescued this theatrical jewel, completely renovating and refurbishing it in a process blending the best of existing architecture with the latest cinema amenities. One of the most notable facets was a move of the entire 7.4-million-pound building 168' west to a new location on 42nd Street.
The Empire Theatre's 25 auditoriums range in size from 600 to 55 seats, with most offering stadium seating. All are furnished with EAW three-way screen systems, as well as EAW subwoofers and surround loudspeakers, fueled by Sony Dynamic Digital Sound (SDDS(TM)).
The custom EAW system is designated as the DH6915, a three-way loudspeaker system. It is specially designed to provide commensurate cinema screen channel performance while located above--rather than behind--the screen. Physical constraints in certain rooms dictated this configuration of the main screen loudspeakers.
"We took all that we've learned and developed for the exacting needs of cinema sound and combined it with expertise gained as a world leader in providing custom solutions to the professional audio marketplace to create the DH6915," Mark Mayfield, EAW director of cinema products, explains. "Led by our top cinema design engineer, Zachary Cobb, this research and development effort yielded even better results than we had predicted."
Other larger auditoriums are outfitted with EAW CB523 three-way screen channel systems, while smaller rooms benefit from EAW CB153 three-way systems specifically designed to offer optimized performance in lesser-scale spaces. Surround loudspeakers and subwoofers were also selected based upon room size, with THX-approved CR82 surround loudspeakers and SB284C subwoofers for bigger needs and THX-approved CR72 surrounds and SB185C subs for smaller ones.
The New York version of London's famed Madame Tussaud's museum is taking shape on the south side of 42nd Street in the new Forest City Ratner entertainment complex (which also includes the AMC movie complex), located on the site of the former Empire, Liberty, and Harris theatres. Scheduled to open this fall, this nine-story venue actually has three floors of attractions and a sweeping 40' lobby with glass elevators that whisk guests to the top floor (they then walk down through the galleries to the ground floor). The attractions are broken down into themed areas that include a celebrity garden party, a portrait gallery, and a popular culture area, where the wax figures range from Jerry Lee Lewis and Elvis to Mickey Mantle and Joe Namath; and the story of Mme Tussaud herself, which begins at the time of the French Revolution, when she made death masks for aristocrats, such as Marie Antoinette, who met their fates at the guillotine.
The scenic work for the attractions was built by Westsun's Canadian company, Scenic Edge, with project design, supervision, and installation under the direction of Rod Hickey of Big Show Construction Management in New York. "The scenery ranges from historic to modern," says Hickey. "There is an Italian palazzo, and a federal interior with columns and faux marble for the Hall of Presidents."
The lighting systems are being supplied, with systems integration, by Production Arts/PRG; Howard Glickman is project manager. PA has subcontracted the audio/visual portion of the project to SPL, also a PRG company, and the rigging to Pook Diemont & Ohl, Inc. The lighting system includes ETC Sensor dimmers as well as ETC Lighting Playback Controllers. The fully automated audio/visual system includes JBL loudspeakers, QSC amplifiers, Alcorn McBride digital video and playback units, Richmond Sound Design routing, switching, and processing, and Middle Atlantic equipment racks. Mike Morley is the onsite project manager for SPL.
And if all that isn't enough for jaded visitors to the Crossroads of America, the National Rifle Association has announced plans to open its own themed restaurant in the area. At press time, no other details were known, but we do hope patrons will be encouraged to check their pistols at the door.