The TKTS bootha cut-price box office for day-of-show Broadway theater tickets—has been a staple of New York’s Times Square since its establishment in 1973. The “temporary” structure built at the time, with that era’s supergraphics taking the place of any real architecture, was still around some 25 years later, prompting a 1999 ideas competition for a replacement. The winning scheme by Australia-based Choi Ropiha languished for years, until Perkins Eastman was hired to design a new booth.

The New York–based firm built a theatrical tour de force, the largest all-glass public structure in the world—according to the architects—using Choi Ropiha’s design for a giant glowing staircase as inspiration. Risers and treads, and even the supporting stringers, are constructed of a low iron, heat strengthened clear glass. Twenty-seven steps provide seating for as many as 500 people in an amphitheater shape that reflects the bow-tie footprint of Times Square. The width of the treads varies from 32 feet at the base to 45 at the summit. Each step comprises three layers of laminated glass with five interlayers of red and translucent films that produce a warm glow. The light source is strips of red iLight LEDs that sit in an aluminum reflector pan under the sandwich of glass and film.

Perkins Eastman and lighting consultant Fisher Marantz Stone chose the iLight product for its durability and ease of installation. It is manufactured for wet locations—a necessity, since the reflector pans act as gutters as well. The glass steps are installed as a simple rain screen atop the pan.

Nestled under the glass structure is a freestanding fiberglass shell that encloses 12 ticket windows. Simple downlights within the shell provide task lighting. Elliptipar wall washers illuminate the exterior and the underside of the stairs, but there’s still tweaking planned for this area. “We’re trying to get a sparkle to the beams,” says Perkins Eastman principal Nick Leahy.

The first electrical advertising appeared in Times Square in 1904—weeks after the public space adopted the name of the newspaper whose offices had just relocated to Broadway and 42nd Street—and the area since has become a cacophony of light and sound. In the new TKTS booth, Perkins Eastman has deployed a more subtle type of lighting magic—inviting people to sit and watch the show of urban life.