Only on Eighth: World’s Fifth Ugliest Building Set for LED Makeover

Next month, the Port Authority Bus Terminal will receive New York City’s first large-scale application of an advanced LED imagery technology. Will the facelift improve its appearance in the eyes of the discerning commuter?

Mediamesh - Port Authority - LEDs

Not only is it one of New York City’s – and the world’s – ugliest buildings, but the Port Authority Bus Terminal is also one of New Yorkers’ least favorite. Lacking the elegance of Grand Central Station or the (relatively) more exotic destinations served by Penn Station, its open air trusses allow pigeons to stroll the concourse while commuters wait in line for departures to suburban New Jersey.

But recently the Bus Terminal has found itself at the nexus of New York City’s green building movement. In late March, Vornado reportedly raised between $500 and $700 million from a Chinese investment concern to finance construction of the long-waited 20 Times Square above the station. At 1.3 million square feet, the 42-story Richard Rogers-designed tower will aim for LEED for Core and Shell Gold from USGBC. The global law firm Paul Weiss is rumored to become Vornado’s anchor tenant.

Mediamesh - Tensile LEDsNow, in June, the Bus Terminal’s northeast facade (at the corner of 42nd Street and 8th Avenue) will be transformed by New York City’s first large-scale application of mediamesh: an advanced LED imagery technology developed by GKD-USA, a joint venture by a German light engineering firm and an American metal fabric developer.

Mediamesh is actually a stainless steel fabric in which LED lights are embedded. Because it is a tensile structure (i.e., all of its elements are in tension with no compression or bending), mediamesh can hang over large areas with little steel support.  When installed, the mesh still permits views from the interior to the outside. Depending on how much space is left between each band of LED lights, the translucence of the display can vary. At the Port Authority, the optimal viewing distance will be between 80 and 100 feet (so be sure and stand on the opposite corner in front of Chevy’s for the full effect once the installation is complete).

Mediamesh is a relatively new technology (only 4 years old). It has already been installed in Manhattan at the Crowne Plaza Hotel at 1605 Broadway (between 48th and 49th Streets) on a much smaller scale. At the Bus Terminal, it will cover approximately 6000 square feet. The Port Authority will use the installation to display various advertisements. But that’s not all mediamesh can do; at Cal State’s Madden Library in Fresno, the technology displays a 4000-hour video loop of a woman weaving a basket.

New Yorkers’ attitudes about the Bus Terminal may never change completely, and that’s certainly understandable. But even the most veteran of commuters should take a moment while dodging pigeons on the way to the gate to acknowledge the Port Authority’s efforts to bring the building into the 21st century.

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2 Responses to Only on Eighth: World’s Fifth Ugliest Building Set for LED Makeover

  1. Leni Schwendinger Tuesday, May 31, 2011 at 10:50 pm #

    Have you stepped around to the second entrance of the Terminal on Ninth Avenue since 2009? There you will see PKSB and Light Projects’ enhancements of the bus ramps and facade. Take a moment, especially on a Friday or Saturday night to glance at our luminous vision.
    http://lenischwendinger.wordpress.com/2009/06/01/triple-bridge-gateway-award-lecture/

  2. Stephen Del Percio Wednesday, June 1, 2011 at 8:30 am #

    Thanks for sharing this, Leni, we’ll be sure to mention it when we inevitably write about the Bus Terminal again.