The New York Times Building


© Denancé, Michel

The 52-story Times company headquarters, Renzo Piano’s first major project in New York City, occupies one of the last sites in the 42nd Street Development Area — a 13-acre district designated for redevelopment in the mid-1980s by New York State and City governments.

Af Kirsten Kiser

The preliminary concept for the building incorporates a transparent glass tower that seems to float above a five-story base. The tower uses a double-curtain-wall technique that allows the structure to appear vibrant and transparent while increasing energy efficiency.

Each architecture tells a story, and the story this new building proposes to tell is one of lightness and transparency.
— Renzo Piano

The building occupies the entire blockfront on the east side of Eighth Avenue between 40th and 41st Streets, anchoring the southwest corner of the Times Square area. The main entrance is on Eighth Avenue, with two additional entrances from 40th and 41st Streets. The building is set back 17 feet along Eighth Avenue and eight feet along 40th and 41st Streets, in order to facilitate pedestrian circulation.

The ground level has retail space and a garden, with offices going up to the 50th floor. The top two floors consist of mechanical space and a rooftop conference facility. A common lobby, a ground-floor auditorium, the rooftop conference facility, and mechanical below-grade areas account for the remaining space in the building.

The Atrium at the base of the building is surrounded on three sides by floating concrete slabs, creating an open urban landscape. This piazza-like space provides an arena for the Times Center, a public amenity devised by the New York Times Company to interface with ground-level pedestrian traffic.

The majority of the double thermal-pane glass curtain wall is screened by thin horizontal ceramic tubes, placed on a steel framework positioned one foot to two feet in front of the glass; elsewhere the screen is made of metal and glass louvers. The irregularly spaced horizontal rods refract daylight up to the ceilings, drawing it into the tower’s interior. On each panel the rods are interrupted at eye level, creating an open viewing space so that those inside the building will not be seeing the city “behind bars”.

In addition to permitting a high degree of energy efficiency in heating and cooling the building, the ceramic tubes take on the changing color of the sky during the course of the day as light focuses on them at different angles. The sunscreen starts on the second floor, leaving the first open, transparent and permeable; glass-enclosed retail spaces along the ground floor allow passers-by to view activity in the lobby and ground-floor garden.

At the top of the building, the screen of tubes becomes less dense, and its lace-like appearance permits a view of the roof garden foliage. The curtain wall continues skyward above the roof to conceal the building’s mechanical elements and maintain the tower’s visual flow. To increase the sense of inter-office community within the tower, as well as to animate its edges, Piano pulled away from the sunscreens and placed the staircases — sheathed in transparent panes — at the building’s corners.

Piano took his inspiration from the utility and symmetry of Manhattan’s world-famous rectangular street grid to design a building with a shape he described as “simple and primary.”