4 Times Square Lobby Renovation
4 Times Square tower (now 151 W.42nd Street), in the in the heart of New York has gone through a re-positioning process with major upgrades to the building infrastructure as well as design upgrades for its public and amenity spaces. Central to this revitalization process was a complete design overhaul of the building lobby that spans between its main entrance on 42nd street and 43rd streets. The lobby redesign work includes all public spaces, the elevator core and cab interiors as well as up-gradation of elevators to destination dispatch system.
The existing lobby was designed in the mid-nineteen-ninety’s with warm toned finishes, rounded edges and an arched profile ceiling finished in metal leaf. The original overall arc of the ceiling profile responded to the constraints of structural elements above the ceiling. Outside the lobby, over-sized canopies adorned the sidewalk at both entrances to the lobby.
To create a fresh feel in the lobby, we proposed a minimalist approach to designing this corporate lobby, with a simplified material palette whilst creating an attractor piece of a ceiling. The move to simplify and minimize is a direct response to visually noisy external environment of Times Square. Held within the constraints of this minimal lobby, a dynamic intricate ceiling would draw attention of passers-by into the lobby. To ensure clear line of sight into the lobby, it was decided to remove the canopies at both entrances and replace them with simple, clean and crisp entry portals. A single Indian granite stone with flamed and honed finish spans the floor through the entire lobby extending on to the sidewalk that reinforces continuity and simplicity of the space. Bamboo veneer panels on core walls add some warmth to the space. The only existing finish that is retained in the lobby is the limestone on perimeter walls, albeit with removal of certain decorative elements.
The plan shape of the lobby is not a perfect rectangle and curves out gently eastward on 42nd street side, and in order to create a continuous ceiling, a double-curve surface would be needed. We applied a diagrid system that helps panelize the curve in diamond shapes. Using computational design tools, our design team explored a series of micro-design iterations within each panel design, adding depth and carving out concave shapes in response to the changing depths. Responding to locations within the lobby including the two entrances and an amenity space in the through corridor, the ceiling panels are activated with added depth and dynamism. An optimization process allowed the design team to express the gradual shift in panel depths whilst maintaining a maximum of 60 unique panel types out of a total of 739 panels in the ceiling. As the design took shape, a number of other pragmatic issues had to be resolved including provisions for down-lights and sprinkler heads in the panels and solving details at termination and corners.
To form such dynamic shaped panels it was decided to work with Glass-Fiber Reinforced Gypsum (GFRG) as a material, which is an easy medium and light-weight. The computational design process lead to a digital fabrication process where GFRG fabricators used the 3D design model to create detailed digital models that were fed into CNC routers to create molds. The entire process for shop-drawings for the panels was done via these digital models. Each panel was fabricated using these molds, numbered and shipped to construction site. Using typical black-iron ceiling construction, each GFRG panel was positioned. Once in place, the joints were taped and finished in the same way as a gypsum board wall.
*Varun led the design as part of HOK's design team.