Architect: Beyer Blinder Belle Architects & Planners, New York, NY; Richard Metsky, AIA, LEED AP, partner in charge
"We've had the privilege of working on several high-profile restoration projects in New York City and beyond," says Richard Metsky, AIA, partner in charge, Beyer Blinder Belle Architects & Planners.
"Our experience revitalizing these significant - and often landmarked - buildings and sites, many of which were also built during or immediately after the Depression, prepared us for the scope of work and issues involved in the Empire State Building lobby, including murals, masonry and lighting restoration."
The original ceiling mural - a starry night sky rendered in gold and silver leaf - was conceived as a tribute to the Machine Age that had made the Empire State Building possible.
Its sunbursts and stars, representations of industrial gears and wheels, remained a focal point of the lobby until the 1960s, when it was fully covered by an acrylic-panel dropped ceiling and fluorescent lighting.
"The fluorescent lighting fixtures were installed in an effort to modernize the building and were intended to give it a contemporary architectural aesthetic," says Metsky
"A central objective of the project was to restore the original light levels, which had been dramatically altered and were far too bright," says Metsky
"Fortunately we were able to go back to those drawings and identify the original lighting concepts, which we matched with modern technology to re-create historically accurate lighting effects throughout the lobby."
As commercial clients had come and gone over the years, the lobby's interior and exterior storefronts and signage had become a mish-mash of fonts and styles.
To create cohesion, aluminum and bronze frames, glass fronts and Art Deco motifs such as scalloped edges and scrolls were adopted by all retail spaces, and complemented by a custom-made, trademarked Empire State Building font for signage.
"We also developed an overall preservation master plan for the building's storefronts, signage and lighting, which was approved by the NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission
," says Metsky
"The restoration and modernization of the Empire State Building lobby has taken us on a fascinating journey," says Metsky