Empire State Building Lobby Restoration

New York, New York

Award Type: Honor Award

It is one of the most iconic buildings in the world.  Celebrated in movies and beloved by tourists, star-crossed lovers and even King Kong, the Empire State Building has undergone a number of changes since its 1931 debut. Over time, modernizations and insensitive modifications had obscured and detracted from its magnificent Art Deco lobby. After a two-year restoration and recreation that was guided by historical documents, photos, original design sketches, blueprints and forensic analysis, a team of architects, historians, artists and highly-skilled craftsmen have returned the lobby to its original grandeur while at the same time modernizing it with the latest in technology and security.

The lobby ceiling originally sported murals of a celestial sky rendered as gears in homage to the mechanical age, but were painted over and destroyed by the installation of fluorescent strip lighting and a dropped ceiling. Now through an accurate recreation they’re back on view, restored and gleaming in the originally specified gold and aluminum leaf. In the 1960s, some of the marble that lined the lobby walls was replaced with back-lit plastic panels depicting the wonders of the world – but now, marble slabs matching the originals have been installed. Although architects’ drawings showed art deco chandeliers over the second-floor bridges, for some reason, they were never hung.  Now, they’re in place, newly fabricated from the original designs.  The soft and subtle palate of the marbles used in the lobby was washed out by over illumination.  Now original lighting levels have been restored using the latest in technology and the rich red and brown veins of the stone are once again visible.  A new uniform font has been applied to all interior and exterior signage to fit the original Art Deco style.

“The world’s best-known skyscraper once again has an entrance worthy of its stature,” said Stephanie Meeks, president of the National Trust for Historic Preservation.  “Malkin Holdings is a visionary corporate steward who recognizes that for this iconic building, only the very best is good enough.”