TKTS Times Square stairs made with acid-etched glass

Structural Engineer: M. Ludvik & Co, Brooklyn, NY

Fabricator: AGNORA Architectural Glass, Collingwood, ON

Etched Glass Manufacturer: Walker Glass, Montreal, QC

Etched Products Used: 12mm Starphire® with Pattern 407-Walker Textures® Traction Acid-etched Anti-Slip

 

Background

With so much action happening in the heart of Times Square, it can be hard to stand out.  But the brilliant red staircase at the TKTS Ticket Booth surely does.  This iconic area can catch the eye of the tourist and bring them in for a closer look and in some cases an impromptu concert or performance as well.  It is truly a major New York City attraction with some days averaging 12,000 visitors per hour.  So when those red glass stairs needed to be repaired and improved, only the highest performance options would be suitable.

 

High Profile and Engineering Challenges

Structural Engineering firm M. Ludvik was involved in the original design and installation and now was once again involved in the repair and replacement.  The familiarity with the project helped but there was still the major issue of length and support to deal with.

 

“Creating the 30 foot long glass beams which support the glass treads was a challenge – we achieved this with an overlap spliced detail. We overlapped several pieces of 15 foot long glass and pinned them together,” said Michael Ludvik, Structural Engineer, M. Ludvik & Co.

That glass was fabricated with sophisticated precision by AGNORA.  There were many steps into making sure this project was able to meet and exceed expectations.  With having the Walker Textures® Traction Anti Slip product lined up for usage, AGNORA then went to work on the other components needed to complete this incredible make-up.  Some of those steps included:

  • Determine the color recipe to match that recognizable ruby red color.
  • Work with the installer on the project David Shuldiner Inc. to understand the various sizes, thicknesses, shapes, and laminate configurations of the as-built stair components.
  • Fabricate a complex quadruple 1⁄2” low-iron laminate with step sides, notches, even step notches, and 8 different interlayers.
  • Be able to heat-strengthen the 12mm thick layers of laminated tread glass, including the top layer of Traction glass. Something that is not done by many operations in the world.

On the last note, there was a reason the glass was heat strengthened instead of tempered like many would expect.

“Compared to tempered, heat strengthened broken glass’ appearance is less objectionable. Broken treads are less noticeable or dramatic to visitors, while broken but in place waiting to be replaced,” said Kevin Nash, Sales & Marketing, AGNORA.

While the glass and engineering were complete, the next step was the installation and the pressures that come with such a high profile project.

Installation with the World Watching

All of the companies involved in this project knew the stakes going in.  This was a heavily trafficked, well known location; any mistake along the way would be magnified much more intensely than say a commercial project inside an office building a block away.  When AGNORA’s Nash visited the job early on in the installation, he experienced what everyone was up against.

“Even at 10pm on a Monday night, the stairs were full of tourists. My client shared a thought provoking perspective with me. ‘People have travelled from around the world just to be right here, right now. And now security is going to ask them to leave please, for scheduled maintenance.’ Our stairs had to be right. That was pressure,” Nash commented.

 

The Future of Glass Stairs and Walkways

Projects like TKTS are major opportunities to show the ability and future of glass used in stair and walkway areas.  More and more projects are appearing because of the make up of the products used on this effort.

“Walker Traction is a much more durable and beautiful product than typical slip resistant frit glass flooring.  The acid etching is a permanent part of the glass as opposed to an applied finish, so is inherently more robust. Frits are difficult to clean, whereas the acid etched glass is more maintainable. We also like the classic acid etched finish aesthetically.  It is hard to quantify how much exactly, but glass flooring is a progressively more common item in our work,” added Ludvik.

AGNORA is also seeing the growth thanks to their fabrication and the manufactured materials from Walker.

“This work with Walker Glass catapulted our reputation for high end, complex fabrication including custom, prestigious glass stairs. I.e.: Walker Textures® Traction glass stair treads and landings, long-run balustrades, and giant, heavily fabricated, deluxe low iron thick laminated, all-glass stair stringers. In New York, our work on TKTS has served as a fast quality-qualifier, during early discussions with potential new clients.” Said Nash.

Conclusion

In the end, a difficult project in a high profile area was a success.  It took several companies working together with high end products and significant communications to get it done, and now they are a part of something that millions will see and experience as years go on.

“Our client came to us with a problem. We helped them solve it. AGNORA and Walker Glass significantly contributed to the problem’s transition between ‘before & after’. Consequently this was a unique, clear case study in customer service.  Supplying a fundamental part of one of the most visited places in the world adds the prestige to the work,” concluded Nash.

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