Located just north of Times Square, The Official NYC Information Center integrates architecture and media into a seamless experience. The centerpiece of the experience is a bank of three large interactive map tables. By placing a “You are here” disc on the table, visitors can explore the city and create custom guidebooks that can be emailed, sent via SMS, or printed. Visitors can also see their saved places on a large-scale, Google Earth fly-through.
The purpose of the project is both to help guide New York City visitors to places they know about, and to help them discover new parts of the city they may not have known existed. Although the center is advanced in terms of its use of technology, the interfaces strive toward intuitive simplicity and accessibility for people who may have limited English skills, or who are not technologically oriented. The center seeks to give people flexible access to information, and to make that information as portable as possible.
The project applies a retail approach to an information space, allowing visitors to self-select their level of interest, with the staff helping to facilitate their experience. It emphasizes user-curated information, and porting out of the center, whether through a custom-printed guide, an email, or a multi-media SMS.
The design team of Local Projects and WXY Architecture found that using a web architecture model was surprisingly apt for this kind of project. All the exhibits are networked, share common databases, and many are served from a central server. This allows them to maintain the Information Center as if it was website, because all the code is relatively centralized. Local Projects Principal Jake Barton notes: “I think a lot of ‘smart spaces’ will probably end up architected similarly, if only because they require that a user's information must be portable between interactives. If a user does something on the table, we have to remember who that person is when they get to the media wall or the printing station. In the center, you don't need to keep entering your information and what you want to see because it is saved to your physical 'you are here' disc. Knowing what a user has done already and using that to make subsequent interactions more relevant is something I think we'll see a lot more of in public space interactivity.”
“The perfect integration of technology, information, and architecture. The clean white lines of the space provide a modern, serene backdrop to the well-designed, clear information graphics tables. The space is inviting, fun, and interactive for adults and children alike.”
“The interactive screens are an exceptional example of how technology can be used effectively to customize and simplify the solution to a complex problem.”
Jake Barton, Claire Weisz (principals in charge); Katie Lee (art director); Mark Yoes, Layng Pew (architects); Ian Curry (interaction designer); David Lu, Brian House, Jack Kalish, Veronique Brossier (developers); Tiya Gordon (interactive producer); Claire Lin, Benjamin Bours (graphic designers); Ariel Efron (videographer); Jim Aveni (sound designer)
3-D Laboratory (shopfitting), Barisol (tensile structures), GestureTek (touchscreens), Salitek (videowall)