"This project emulates the perfect balance between endless engagement and effective utilization. Visitors stay, not just for the information but for how it's accessed." —juror Stacey Mulcahy
"To love New York is to make it your own. Beautifully imagined and impeccably executed, this piece provides a space that enables visitors to craft their own New York experiences and make their own discoveries—with some insider help along the way." —juror Ranee Chung
Overview: The NYC Information Center is a true information space that combines the functionality of the Web with the elegance of architecture; while intended for visitors, the depth of information also makes it a resource for locals. Launched in conjunction with HUGE's complete redesign of nycgo.com, it guides visitors to places they know and helps them discover those they don't. The core offering is a series of interactive map tables, at which visitors create custom city guides that can be e-mailed, printed or used to visualize a 3-D flythrough of their itineraries on a giant screen. Although technologically advanced, the interfaces are intuitively simple and accessible for people who may have limited English skills or are not technologically inclined.
• The top 100 questions traditionally asked by visitors were answered in 10 languages in a simple touchscreen interface.
• A collaboration between WXY Architecture, Urban Design and Local Projects, the project took nine months including all architectural renovation.
• In roughly one month the center registered 5,000 users on the tables.
Comments by Jake Barton:
Describe one of the more challenging aspects of the project? "In a sense, we were dealing with three different levels of navigation: The space itself can be navigated differently depending on visitor need; the exhibits each have their own navigational mechanisms; but, ultimately, the space is only successful if it can help visitors navigate the city itself.
"With each interactive, we attempted to keep a common visual language for what is a button, etc. The FAQs are as simple as possible, essentially two screens—a main menu and a detail page—that visitors flip back-and-forth between. The idea was that there would be no way to get lost in these since the content sits at a very shallow level; with ten languages and three content types though, it was a challenge to organize.
"When thinking about how the navigation might work for the tables, we were looking at a lot of maps, which of course all had big red "You Are Here" markers. It eventually occurred to us to allow visitors to pick up a coaster-sized "You Are Here" disk and drop it on a table. Once dropped, a pinwheel of categories is revealed; selecting a category shows things around the disc that are in the category. NYC is a walking city for the most part, so the dot is also surrounded by an expandable radius showing walking times (measured, of course, at tourist speed, since New Yorkers walk much faster). The disc and underlying map can be moved by touching and dragging on the table.
"For people to navigate the city successfully, our approach was to show New York from a variety of perspectives: The FAQs offer a series of photos along the route; the tables provide a zoomed-out, infographic, overhead view of how things lay out in the city, that's good for exploring; finally a Google Earth flythrough, beginning in space and zooming in, provides a sense of how New York is situated with regard to the world and how all the saved locations relate to one another—a perspective that's missed when popping up out of the subway or lost in the canyons of buildings.
"It's a customizable, hybrid digital/physical solution that combines visual cues and interactivity to choreograph how visitors move through the space and ultimately how they move through the city."