34th Street

From the Archives

This Week in Partnership History

In 2001, our Design Department received an exciting award.

Technological progress may have its pros and cons, but, in the age of smartphones, there’s one thing most longtime New Yorkers will agree on: back in the day, the city’s motley collection of phone booths and kiosks were a disaster. They attracted graffiti and trash, were unpleasant to look at, and were seemingly always out of order.

Back in 2001, 34th Street Partnership’s industrial designer Ignacio Ciocchini, now serving as our Vice President of Design, attempted to tackle this problem by designing a sleek, ergonomic telephone kiosk intended by 34th Street Partnership to be used by phone companies at locations throughout the District.

The design was excellent, as a search through the archives at MidCity News shows. An issue on March 15, 2001 reported that the Art Commission of the City of New York went beyond just granting final approval to the kiosk. “On behalf of the Art Commission of the City of New York,” wrote Executive Director Deborah Bershad in her confirmation letter to Partnership President Dan Biederman, “I am pleased to inform you of your selection for the Nineteenth Annual Art Commission Awards, for an “Excellence in Design Special Recognition Award.”

Partnership President Daniel Biederman and Ciocchini accepted the award at a ceremony at the American Museum of Natural History Imax Theater. They were joined by that year’s other winners, which, according to The New York Times, included the designers of a time capsule, a Light Wall, sewer covers, a playground at Prospect Park, and other examples of public art.

History was not kind to telephone kiosks in general, as we know, but Ciocchini’s design was state-of-the-art at the time. Though multiple phone companies expressed interest in adopting it, in the end, only one prototype was installed, near the Empire State Building. “It generated a lot of discussion about design and the poor state of the public telecommunications infrastructure in NYC at the time”, Ciocchini states. 

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