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Installation Profile: All the Data that’s Fit to Transmit

Mar 1, 2008 12:00 PM, By Dan Daley

Bold AV/IT statement at newspaper headquarters.

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Moveable Type

The New York Times’ new headquarters in New York

The New York Times’ new headquarters in New York makes a bold statement for the new century with a robust IT backbone.
Photo: David Sundberg

When a famous corporation commissions a new headquarters, that new building needs to make a statement. The New York Times' new glass tower sits across the street from the eternally shabby Port Authority bus station in Manhattan — perhaps the last piece left after the Disneyfication of the grungy old Times Square, which was itself named for the paper's longtime previous location on West 43rd Street. The contrast is striking, but it's in the lobby where you'll find the definitive IT statement for the building. The hall is lined with 4.5"×8.5" vacuum-fluorescent displays — a Blade Runner-esqe vintage display technology from the 1960s. Hung from braids of wire like beads on tassels, they are constantly updated with bits and pieces from that day's newspaper — taken directly from the offices where they were written and laid out above — as well as from the Times' 150-year archive, interspersed with comments from visitors to the Times' website. (See the sidebar on p. 58 for more on this art installation, dubbed Moveable Type.)

The new building, designed by architect Renzo Piano, is massive: a little more than 1.5 million square feet of space spread over 52 floors — including 21,000ft. of retail space on the ground floor — that cost an estimated $640 million to build. David Harvey, a principal at Harvey Marshall Berling, which did the AV systems design in the Times Center auditorium, sounds a recurrent note in systems design in an age in which buildings take years to complete.

“I did my first budget for this project in 2002 [five years before the building would be finished],” he says. “When you start projects like these now, you have to budget for technology that's not even been invented yet.”

Asking a client about video formats in 2002 included VHS, at a time when that format had market parity with DVD. The compromise back then was a digital Betacam player augmented with a DVD deck and a combination of triax and fiber-optic cabling to accommodate later high-definition formats. During the design process, however, other elements changed. Internet connectivity went from Ethernet cabling to wireless, for instance, but accommodating that change was easy. Unlike the old building — where the electronics, plumbing, and air conditioning were in the ceiling — the new building has virtually nothing in the ceiling. Air conditioning comes from discreet circular floor vents (the largest under-floor air system built in New York). There is plenty of room above the ceiling tiles for lighting and AC power, and the ceiling grid never has to be reconfigured for new ducting.

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