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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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Times Center performance space

In the Times Center performance space, the first three rows of seats can be removed and filled in with platforms to increase the stage depth to 25ft.

A networked AMX NIB-4100-DAD touchscreen controller with a Modern NEXT-1200 control panel handles control for the center's systems. The stage fixtures, on a system of pipes suspended from the ceiling, are powered using a system of 144 20-amp, solid-state dimmers fed in a dimmer-per-circuit configuration. The stage-lighting and house-lighting systems are controlled by a theatrical-lighting computer console and by video touchscreens located in the control booth and onstage. The touchpanel system can also control audio and video playback and recording, Barco video projection, ERES window shades, and blackout shades.

“It was a unique collaboration between a lot of talented teams,” Harvey says. “We all crossed lines to make the integration seamless as possible working with the requirements of the theater and acoustic consultants. The goal was to give the owner a single point of control with the touchscreens to select presets of the electronic reverberation system [and] control the house and stage lighting and audiovisual systems.”

The control system is accessible from other parts of the Times building because it rides on the Times' internal LAN, Harvey adds.

He also points out the architect stressed that technology could be exposed, but it had to be designed and detailed carefully so as to minimize interference with the center's aesthetics. As a result, he says, exposed equipment such as loudspeakers, microphones, and stage- and house-lighting fixtures, as well as associated cabling, were run in what he calls “tech slots” — narrow zones across the hall's ceiling and walls — to organize the wiring and to keep it neat.

“There was a great deal of wiring that needed to be exposed as it transitioned from conduit installed above the finish ceiling to surface-mounted equipment exposed to the audience,” Harvey says. “Every aspect of how the wiring and equipment was mounted was carefully scrutinized by the architect.”

The New York Times building represents a $640-million leap of faith for a legacy information medium. But the extent to which the company made IT a core proposition suggests that the Gray Lady, as the Times is affectionately known among New Yorkers, might just stick around for another century.


Using strategically placed loudspeakers, an electronic-architecture system such as the Electronic Reflected Energy System (ERES) can change the apparent size and shape of a room by changing the apparent pattern of reflected sound, simulating reflections from surfaces that may not be physically present, and/or expanding useful (but weak) reflections that are naturally present. Electronic architecture is particularly effective for tailoring and extending the acoustic response of a relatively dry room.

“The Times Center is a good example of a room where the acoustic signature is smooth and well-controlled, but has a relatively short decay, consistent with its basic purpose as a lecture hall,” says Mark Turpin, a JaffeHolden electroacoustical engineer. “In this case, electronic architecture extends and shapes the room's decay pattern to support acoustic music performance.”
— D.D.

Moveable Type

Moveable Type

Moveable Type is a media artwork commissioned for the ground-floor lobby of the newly completed New York Times building. The artwork consists of 560 vacuum-fluorescent displays (VFD) that are arrayed in two grids of seven rows and 40 columns each. Each grid is 53.5ft. long and 5.3ft. tall.

Developed in the 1960s in the form of vacuum tubes, VFDs are now used most commonly in industrial applications and appliances — such as microwave ovens, gas pumps, digital clocks, and cash registers. Their resolution is 128×256 pixels. The artists say they selected this technology because it has a timeless and undated quality that will keep the piece fresh for many years.

Each display unit contains an audio interface, a loudspeaker, and an audible relay, enabling it to produce a variety of sounds. In addition, 10 small full-range loudspeakers mounted near the floor provide background sounds. Five hundred and seventy independent channels of audio allow Moveable Type to create a fully spatialized, immersive soundscape.

The information — and therefore, the artwork itself — is in a constant state of change, because it reflects the up-to-the-minute production of the news by The Times, both in print and online. The artwork draws its content from three sources: a live feed from The New York Times, capturing text and data in near-realtime as the information is published; regular summaries of online page views and search activity by readers of the Times' website; and the complete Times archive dating back to 1851. Artists have programmed the work to extract fragments — such as quotes, details, questions, numbers, and places — from the Times' growing, living, realtime news database, and to recombine these fragments into a series of kinetic compositions.
— D.D.

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