This week, the Empire State Building (ESB) announced the second phase of its top-to-bottom reimagined Observatory Experience. Opening to the public on July 29, 2019, the $165 million project is located on the second floor of the iconic high-rise building. At the site, 10,000 square feet of gallery space invites guests on a journey from the building’s construction to its current place in pop culture. Named the most Instagrammed U.S. landmark in a study conducted by Sony Mobile, the new galleries feature immersive and interactive exhibits as visitors make their way to the views from the 86th Floor Observatory of the building.
Led by experience designer Thinc, with team members IDEO, Squint Opera, Beneville Studios, Diversified., Intersection, Kubik Maltbie, Otis Elevator Company, and Tenguerian Model, this phase two follows the first phase — a new Observatory entrance at 20 West 34th Street which was completed in August 2018.
The galleries in the now completed second phase include:
The Site in the 1920s: A black-and-white panoramic image depicts the site of the original Waldorf-Astoria Hotel as construction of the Empire State Building begins. Through building surveyors, visitors look in and see the New York City streets of the late 1920s come to life in full color.
Construction: Inspired by the photography of Lewis Hine, visitors are transported back in time as hot rivets, and steel beams fly overhead, and the sounds of New York City come alive in surround sound. Visitors can also interact with specially commissioned cast sculptures of construction workers as they work and take their lunch break.
Opening Day: The excitement of opening day is palpable with a newsboy announcing the opening of the Empire State Building as he sells his papers on the streets of 1930s New York City.
Modern Marvel: The Modern Marvel exhibit outlines the specific measures taken to make the Empire State Building a leader in sustainability and a leading example in energy efficiency.
Elevator Technology: Otis Elevator Company delivered the groundbreaking technology that made the towering height of ESB possible. In a dedicated exhibit, Otis showcases not only how the original elevators operated, but teaches visitors about the latest technology installed in the newest elevators, which transport more than 10 million tenants and Observatory guests each year. Visitors walk through a simulation of an actual elevator shaft and feel the energy created by the movement of the cars up close.
Urban Campus: Very few visitors to the Empire State Building are aware of what is happening in the nearly 100 floors they don’t see. Urban Campus offers a glimpse into some of the major tenant spaces, amenities, and hidden views of the building as experienced by those who work there. The exhibit highlights some of these contemporary internet-age businesses, visible through peepholes that give guests an insider’s view of what these high-tech offices are like.
World’s Most Famous Building: Set to an original score commissioned for this exhibit, more than 70 screens display highlights of Empire State Building’s starring role in pop culture from every decade since the 1930s. There are hundreds of movies, TV shows, commercials, cartoons, comic books, and video games that feature the world’s most famous building.
King Kong: Visitors walk into an office from the 1930s where the famous, giant ape’s fingers pierce the walls as he dangles from the building and dodges vintage fighter planes.
Celebrity: The Empire State building is a popular destination for A-list celebrities and worldwide talent with many famous faces from around the globe visiting its world-famous 86th Floor Observatory. This exhibit highlights some of the most famous visitors (athletes, musicians, actors) with their images and signed memorabilia adorning the walls for guests to see as they head to the elevators that will take them to their next stop: “NYC: Above & Beyond on the 80th Floor.”
“While the views from the 86th Floor Observatory are world-famous, the Empire State Building has a rich history filled with exciting events and innovative projects that we are now able to share via our new second-floor exhibits,” said Anthony E. Malkin, Chairman and CEO of Empire State Realty Trust. “We began in August 2018 with the relocation of our Observatory entrance to 34th Street, and now our new galleries on the second floor give our visitors the chance to learn and engage with the iconic authenticity that only the Empire State Building, unique not just in New York City, but in the world, can provide. With the expertise of our design partners, these new galleries will engage visitors in unprecedented ways.”
The cross-disciplinary, best-in-class team from the arts and architecture, technology and entertainment industries, which conceived and curated the project include:
- Beneville Studios
- Kubik Maltbie
- Otis Elevator Company
- Squint / Opera
- Syska Hennessy Group
- Tenguerian Models
- The Lighting Practice
- Thinc Design
- Thornton Tomasetti