Firm of the Week: WXY in NYC
February 1, 2011
WXY architecture + urban design is a true New Yorker’s office:
Most of their projects are located on tiny, unusual, or challenging sites and built on short schedules. They function in an array of different roles (architect, branding consultant, graphic designer, identity designers and landscape architect, at last count). And in doing so, they’ve collected awards an critical acclaim with growing frequency (recently selected as one of the Architectural League’s Emerging Voices of 2011).
The four projects featured after the jump reflect the hybrid nature of their office and how WXY is exploring territory where the architect functions as a visual problem solver.
LARGE: Times Square Visitor’s Center, New York, NY, 2010.
Called “ingenious” by the New York Times, the firm’s renovation of the theater has, in its first month in operation, been heralded as a huge success. The design is one that hinges on juxtaposition: the vastly different eras of Times Square history are spatially and figuratively layered in the space. The major histories at play here? Times Square, as the center of the theater world. Time Square, as porn-central in the 70s and 80s, versus Times Square, the place to get your picture taken at the Hollister store and buy a Coldplay CD at the Tower Records (ok, no more, but you get us).
How does that play out in the design? Marble panels reflect magenta light from hidden frames, the famous PEEP-O-RAMA sign that once dominated a block of the area is set up behind the decorative awnings of the theater’s interior, the the preserved moldings that run along the ceiling have been bathed in the garish hues plucked straight from the sex shop palette. An interactive LED entryway engages visitors, and utilizes a “parametric design and delivery system” for its central, amorphous kiosk.
Comments the firm, “The question was how to keep the theater and its colorful past intact while efficiently serving modern functions, and how to repurpose a landmark without altering it. It was a case of do but don’t, change without touching.”
We have a second, ulterior motive for talking about the office — they designed the great new Times Square Visitors Center, where next week we’ll be holding our first Social Media Week panel event and party. Check out WXY’s design, plus the panel on Architecture and Social Media next Thursday (register here!).
Images by Paul Warchol Photography.
MEDIUM: Museum of Jewish Heritage Visitors Center, 1999.
WXY had only three months to build this small (1,300 sf) visitors center on the Battery Park site. It links the Museum of Jewish Heritage with the waterfront – a location that, for half the year, is windswept and inhospitable. The resulting structure is elegantly responsive to the conditions.
The building was really one of the first post-WTC buildings, though it preceded its collapse by two years: After the first World Trade Center bombing, Museum officials commissioned the structure to act as a security checkpoint for visitors on their way into the Museum. So, the Center acts as a kind of catch-all space where ticket sales, visitor screening, and administrative programs all co-exist. Says WXY: It becomes a visual puzzle among buildings with more simple geometries.”
SMALL: Metrotech Security Kiosks, 2010.
It’s a rare thing to see a city or federal government spending money on design, but this project was one of those instances. WXY was hired to build the security kiosks that would sit at the NYPD facilities and FDNY headquarters at the start of the Brooklyn Bridge. The architects write that the intent was to “challenge the notion that security enhancements automatically result in an aesthetic of unattractive, industrial materials and forms.” Transparency is a radical design decision when it comes to security – but is achieved here through the use of multi-layered green glass panelling.
BONUS: The NYC Vistor’s Center allows visitors to actually hand-pick sites and attractions and download them as a personal guidebook.