Bomb scares notwithstanding, it’s hard to believe that only a year has passed since New York’s Times Square transformed from a honking, expletive-laden urban jungle to a relatively calm pedestrian oasis—all thanks to the Green Light for Midtown project, which shut off Times Square to cars. And that expanse is set for a colorful makeover: Today Brooklyn artist Molly Dilworth won a competition to temporarily paint over Times Square. The installation will begin in July, and stay up for 18 months. (In 2012, a different, larger more permanent design plan will beginning construction.)
Cool Water, Hot Island's wavy swaths of aqua-hued paint will turn a five-block stretch of Broadway into a river-like mirage. The design is based on NASA’s infrared satellite data of Manhattan, which reveals the temperature variance across the city (which tends to hotter than the suburbs, because of all the heat absorbing concrete and asphalt). For Dilworth, it's a return to form—the artist is best known for huge rooftop paintings, some of which are intended to be visible on Google Earth.
Dilworth's piece won out over 150 submissions not only for its pretty factor but for how it actually combats city heat: "The proposed design’s color palette of striking blues and lighter hues reflects more sunlight and absorbs less heat— improving the look of these popular pedestrian plazas while making them more comfortable to sit in," according to the DOT.
The new plan is probably most of the cheapest and most visible urban redesign efforts on the part of Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Department of Transportation Commissioner Jeannette Sadik-Khan; recently, they've announced a refresh of New York sidewalk scaffolding; an innovative express bus system; and a grand plan to redevelop Governor's Island.
Whether the city has become a more beautiful place to live under Bloomberg is debatable—for every stylish stainless-steel bus shelter, there’s been an eyesore of a condo building zoned into existence—but this latest project certainly adds another small but effective grace note to the mayor’s growing design legacy.