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The Empire State Building unveils a new observatory entrance for the digital age

The Empire State Building is a historical monument and an icon for New York City. Since its completion in 1931, the 102-story Art Deco skyscraper by architectural firm Shreve, Lamb & Harmon located at 34th Street and Fifth Avenue has attracted visitors from around the globe. The crown jewels of the cultural landmark are the observatories on the 86th and 102nd floor, which looks out to panoramic views of the city.

Yesterday, the Empire State Realty Trust has unveiled the first phase of its decade-long US$550 million (S$754 million) Empire State ReBuilding project that aims to modernise the building. The space announced is the new entrance, that will expand the lobby and reduce the wait time for the 4.2 million annual Observatory guests.

Empire State Building
The new lobby.

Instead of the old 350 Fifth Ave entrance, visitors to the 87-year-old building will now go through a new entrance on 20 West 34th St located right around the corner; for an enhanced, more high-tech experience to the top. The minute visitors swing open the doors of the new entrance, they are treated to a refreshed lobby that plays up the building’s Art Deco features with its floor tiles and ceiling designs, reminiscent of those from the original entry.

Empire State Building
The highlight of the new space is a two-storey architectural model of the Empire State Building by Richard Tenguerian.

The lobby features a grand staircase that splits around the highlight of the new space, a two-storey (25-foot) architectural model of the building itself, dreamt up by model-maker Richard Tenguerian, who built it in 105 days. The model weighs 1,274 pounds (578 kilos) and is adorned with 15,000 LED light bulbs that recreate the skyscraper’s famous light shows. Similar to the original building, the model features 6,514 windows.

To maintain its relevance in the digital age, the makeover includes high-tech advancements that will provide a seamless experience for visitors — such as electronic self-service ticket kiosks available in nine languages (English, French, Mandarin, German, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, Korean and Japanese), interactive digital hosts that tell personal stories about the building, and airport-style security. While waiting to go through security, guests can keep themselves entertained by viewing historic and current photos of the iconic building.

Empire State Building
The new lobby will feature airport-style security.

Additionally, the new Observatory entrance will also include a VIP Green Room, which is a swanky den with a private champagne reception for celebrities and dignitaries to relax in while visiting.

The entire rebuilding project of the Observatory, which promises improvements in energy, efficiency, infrastructure, public areas and amenities, is expected to be completed by late 2019. Until then, the Empire State Realty Trust will be rolling out the new spaces in phases.

(All images credited to: Evan Joseph for Empire State Realty Trust) 

Dewi Nurjuwita
Senior Writer
Dewi Nurjuwita is a travel and design writer who can be found exploring the streets of foreign cities with passport in one hand and a cup of coffee in the other.