The Public’s Pulpit by Conner Thackara
Identify a public space
My chosen space for the integration of free speech is Duffy Square, located within Times Square. This small triangle of flat land is constantly packed with both tourists and city inhabitants alike. This grants everyday people the ability to spread their opinion and ideas across a wide range of people. People come from all around the world to New York City and Times Square, making it the perfect place spread one person’s knowledge and ideas to spread through hundreds at one time. Those who are initially exposed to the ideas then spread them outward from there creating a field of spread ideas from everyday citizens. This tightly clustered group of persons allows for the transmission of opinions that circumvents issues of race, age, or gender while promoting self-promotion and freedom of ideas.
This design proposal is meant to give everyday people a chance to stand on their own soapbox and raise themselves above the crowds to talk with the public.
By looking at the existing site conditions of Duffy Square I focused on two conditions, more specifically; the already existing ground tile pattern, as well as, the pedestrian density of the area. The open area of Duffy Square was mapped into 3 sizes of density, ranging from individual, to small group to a large central zone. Each zone range has a series of raised platforms whose sizes are dependent on the zone size.
Each of the platforms is made up of one larger podium with a series of steps that proceed up to the top of it. The main platforms are raised up 3 feet to allow the users to be able to peer up over the crowd and engage them with their ideas and opinions. The raised blocks are meant to conform to the existing ground pattern in both size and materiality. Each block would be a precast concrete core that is veneered with the same tiles used on the ground to better incorporate them into the site. They would then be glued to the ground with construction adhesive allowing for the removal for events and other such occurrences on the site. When not being used for the spread of ideas, they would also double as seating for the general masses that walk through the area.
The project is designed to be a semi-permanent installation, which has been done many times in Duffy Square. This design could be realized with the help of The New York City Parks Department who have done temporary art installations in Duffy Square on several occasions. In addition to the parks department, Snøhetta arkitektur landskap AS could be worked with since, they are currently the firm contracted to reconstruct Times Square. This will allow the design to better be integrated into the future of Times Square as a larger project.
The construction of the project would involve the addition of the individual platforms to each of the areas. Each platform is made of a basic precast concrete core; the same tiles used on the ground are then veneered to the concrete core. This way the platforms conform to the size and look of the pre-existing ground pattern. The completed platforms would then be arranged and secured to the ground with construction adhesive. This will give a strong enough bond along with the weight of the platforms to keep them completely solid. When events arise that require them to be moved, the adhesive can be removed along with the installation and re-installed again afterwards.
Conner Thackara is a fourth year architecture student at New Jersey Institute of Technology studying for a bachelors of architecture