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New York Subway, Times Square

New York’s subway development has a long history, as is the case with many cities across the world. New York’s first line opened in 1904, with the further expansion of the network stimulating the rapid densification of Manhattan island, and its surrounding areas (Hood, 2004). Because of the urban densification and demand for functional land, high rise buildings were erected in the midtown area of the city, which created interfaces with the Subway network.

One example of the interfaces of the Subway and urban infrastructure is at Times Square, bounded by 42nd and 43rd Streets, and Broadway and Seventh Avenue (Fig.1). At the time of construction of the Subway, Times Square was not as densely developed as it is today. It was only with the arrival of the New York Times and the construction of the Times Building that urban densification increased in this area (NYC-Subway-Org, undated). 

Fig.1: Satellite image showing the location of One Time Square, outlined red. Note the various heights of surrounding buildings. Source: Bing Maps, 2019.


Of relevance to this example of the occurrence of the interfaces of UUMI and its environment, is that the New York Times Building was constructed as an integral part of the Subway Times Square station and related UUMI, as shown in Figs.2 and 3.

Fig.2, shows a plan of Times Square station at basement level, with part of the Time Building adjacent. Fig.3, shows a section of the station further demonstrating the physical interfaces of the Times building and the Subway station. Note how the basement levels of the Times building wrap around the metro infrastructure.

Fig.2: Plan view of the basement levels of Times Square Subway station and the Times Building, New York, US. Source: NYC-Subway-Org, undated.


Fig.3: Section through the basement levels of Times Square Subway station and the Times Building, New York, US. Source: Purdy, 1909.


Purdy, (1909), describes how the construction of the Subway station and the Times building were contemporary with one another. Purdy, also described how, the urban and Subway stakeholders had to agree on the proposed designs, methods of construction, allocation of property (Fig.4), and future proofing of the interfacing infrastructure, to ensure the safe continued presence and operation of the building and the Subway. Both still exist and are in use today (2020).

Within Fig 4, the following interpretations of the property interfaces have been shaded based on the descriptions within Purdy, 1909:

  • Green = New York Times;

  • Purple = Local highway authority;

  • Red = New York Subway. 

This is one of many such examples of the occurrences of the interfaces of UUMI and its environment across the world. It is therefore surprising that there is little practitioner discussion or comprehension of the occurrences of these interfaces within literature and that standardised processes for the analysis and sharing of data have not been developed for other forms of urban infrastructure. This is especially concerning given the effects and affects UUMI has on its contextual environment, for the whole lifecycle of its presence.

Fig.4: Section through the basement levels of Times Square Subway station and the Times Building, New York, US, showing the simplified property interfaces, based on the description within Purdy, 1909. Source: Purdy, 1909.


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