Times Square Goes Under Water

Hi everyone, my name is Kevin Xiao and I am a summer Planning and Outreach Intern at CISC.  During the academic year, I am an undergraduate student at Dartmouth College, focusing on government and environmental studies as prospective majors.  Outside of the academic setting, I love photography, especially shooting events and public art/designs.  I look forward to posting entries and photos of sustainable art and environmental events in NYC in the coming weeks.

As most are probably aware, Times Square did not experience a flood in the past weeks, but the familiar red of its  walkways is now replaced with blue swirls, mimicking the flow of water on land.  This sweeping plain of blue is the most recent Molly Dillworth public art installation.  Her “Cool Water, Hot Island” was selected by the Department of Transportation as an 18 month temporary replacement of the Times Square pedestrian walkway design as the city moves forward in its plan to revamp the area, according to a statement by the Department of Transportation.

The design was supposed to act as both an abstract representation of the Heat Island effect that most urban centers have, as well as a white roof.  The white roof concept is based on the fact that lighter (more white) surfaces reflect heat and light more than darker surfaces, thus decreasing the energy absorbed by those surfaces.  Thus, a white surface is actually a couple of degrees cooler than a black one.

While it certainly attracts passer bys, it doesn’t necessarily draw them in. A glance at people’s interaction with the installation shows one flaw that prevents this design from achieving the desired educational and emotional effect.  Many people step around or over the installment, not looking at it.  Mainly, the lack of signs explaining the display causes the display to be purely aesthetic. In fact, the one explanation sign on 42nd and Broadway that was there during the creation of the installation was removed after completion.  Chatting with pedestrians on the sidewalk, I found that a good number of people thought the installation was simply a new design because the plain red was old.

On the other hand, people are noticing the change.  The installment definitely leaves pedestrians curious of the ‘who, what, and why,’ of this installation.

Since “Cool Water, Hot Island” was just completed a few weeks ago,  hopefully signs explaining the design, or even displaying the name of the installation, will crop up as more people ask about the installation.  In the meantime, if you ever find yourself in Times Square and see some confused pedestrians looking at the design, explain it to them.  It may be the start of an interesting conversation.


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