NYC Port Authority Bus Terminal: The World’s Largest Media Façade

Courtesy of

One of the City’s most forgettable buildings has been transformed into a model of modern technology. The Port Authority Bus Terminal (PABT), located in midtown Manhattan between 40th and 42nd street, now boasts the world’s largest transparent media façade completed by GKD Metal Fabrics which effectively covers the building’s outdated steel façade. More images and project description after the break.

Courtesy of GKD Metal Fabrics

GKD-USA, the leading manufacturer of woven metal fabrics, secured the contract to manufacture and install 6,000-square-feet of Mediamesh® on the PABT. The façade provides a multitude of benefits to the Port Authority including opportunities for advertising revenue given its prime location one block from Times Square. Second, the addition of the façade will hide the terminal’s 1970s-era steel overlay which earned it the unflattering designation as one of the 10 ugliest buildings in the world by VirtualTourist.com. However, given the transparent nature of the material, natural lighting and interior views will not be obstructed to occupants inside the building.

Courtesy of GKD Metal Fabrics

The Port Authority Bus Terminal is the largest bus station in the United States and busiest by volume in the world, with 7,200 buses arriving and more than 200,000 people passing through the terminal daily. In addition to serving both local and intercity bus lines, the five-story building is also home to retail space, restaurants and a bowling alley. Since it opened in 1950, the size and shape of the Port Authority Bus Terminal has been continually modified, but the building facade has undergone minimal change since the 1970s.

Courtesy of GKD Metal Fabrics

“When you’re working in a space as dynamic and high-traffic as Manhattan, you have to put a lot of effort into determining not only how the product will be used, but also how it will be installed,” said Mike Leonard, Technical Director, Mediamesh® Systems for GKD-USA. “Because the building was in use during construction, we engineered a way to carry out the installation from the roof, day and night, so as not to disturb the traffic below and to ensure the building could stay fully functional.”

Courtesy of GKD Metal Fabrics

The project features 16 panels containing 1.325 million LED diodes. The panels are tensioned stainless steel metal fabric installed on two sides of the building, each side comprising eight panels. The size and shape of the installation creates two surfaces for simultaneous, separate or continuous messaging. The size of the installation allows for an image resolution that retains its brilliance blocks away from the building. Over 265,000 pixels, arranged approximately 2 inches apart vertically and 1.5 inches horizontally, ensure the complete daylight suitability and video compatibility of the large-format display. Additionally, the material’s breathability does not block the free movement of air within the parking structure, eliminating the energy and cost needed to run mechanical equipment to control emissions.

Courtesy of GKD Metal Fabrics

Mediamesh, a transparent advertising and communication platform made of stainless steel fabric with integrated LED profiles, visually enhances the façade and makes it a model of new digital signage solutions. While advertising facades of this size are often vulnerable to the harsh and varied weather conditions of an urban environment like Manhattan, the nature of Mediamesh® allows it to flexibly cope with temperatures between -4 degrees Fahrenheit and 158 degrees Fahrenheit, as well as hurricane force winds. Additionally, the Mediamesh design features 57 percent open area, which allows both natural ventilation and also reduces solar heat gain on the parking areas.

Courtesy of GKD Metal Fabrics

Helping drive the selection of Mediamesh® was Boston-based A2aMEDIA, a next-generation media company that designs, installs and operates large-scale outdoor LED displays as transparent building facades. “We have been working with GKD for several years to help bring the Mediamesh® technology to applications throughout North America,” said Brian Schuvart, senior vice president of sales and marketing at A2aMedia. “The installation possibilities for this solution are immense. The integration of digital imagery, transparency and breathability not only provides advertisers with a dynamic medium to share their messages, but makes Mediamesh® the ideal solution for the Port Authority.”

Cite: Furuto, Alison. "NYC Port Authority Bus Terminal: The World’s Largest Media Façade" 14 Jul 2011. ArchDaily. Accessed 31 Jul 2014. <http://www.archdaily.com/?p=148961>

10 comments

  1. Thumb up Thumb down 0

    This a simple, cost efficient solution that blends in nicely with times square down the street. That, and anything just anything is better than what exists now. The port Authority is easily in the top 3 ugliest buildings in New York.

  2. Thumb up Thumb down 0

    At least the old facade had character… now it’s a generic billboard. Which one is uglier?

  3. Thumb up Thumb down 0

    I like the original Port Authority. It is an aggressively industrial building that refuses to have a facade. This addition seems to contribute additional visual noise. I would prefer to see it used for advertising, the crowded market clamoring for attention, than decoration where none was needed.

    • Thumb up Thumb down 0

      Hi Doug, actually the Port Authority is using the media facade for adveritsing, opening up a new revenue stream. They plan to use the revenue to continue to make improvements to the building. When Mediamesh went live over the summer, initial advertisers included The Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, Fidelity Investments, Fox Television Broadcasting Network, Macquarie Equipment Financing, Paramount Studios, and Peter Pan Bus Lines. Along with advertising, Mediamesh will periodically promote charitable causes and provide information during emergencies as it did during Hurricane Irene. Thanks!

  4. Thumb up Thumb down 0

    Has anybody seen this in person? Is it in fact installed? I’m asking because these renderings are pretty spurious, given how the foreground does not change; note the people in the three night views. Regardless I actually like the area beyond the corner, the way the X-bracing is illuminated in different colors. That seems more fitting with the existing than the arbitrary corner imagery.

  5. Thumb up Thumb down 0

    I’m sorry, this is not the world’s largest media facade.

    Have none of you been to Shanghai?

    This looks to be about the size of what the Chinese put on the side of one of their laundromats……….

    • Thumb up Thumb down 0

      Hi Greg, yes you’re right, this is the world’s largest TRANSPARENT media facade. It says that in the body copy but looks like ArchDaily cut that word out of the headline. The transparency was critical in the specification of the material because the facade had to allow for natural ventilation since this is still a parking garage/bus terminal and the Port Authority wanted to avoid increased cost for mechanical ventilation. Hope that helps!

Share your thoughts