Empire State Building
For many years, the Empire State Building was the most famous of New York’s many skyscrapers, eclipsed perhaps only since 1972 when the World Trade Center exceeded its height. The building was renowned not only for its height (1,454 feet with 102 stories) and its appearance but also for its construction. That 3,500 laborers were able to erect an average of five and a half stories a week and that not more than a year elapsed between groundbreaking ceremonies and the arrival of the first tenants in 1931 depended on the exceptional efficiencies of the architects and developers. Skillful designers of office buildings in Manhattan, the architectural firm of Shreve, Lamb and Harmon were familiar with the imperatives of design and construction that meant to maximize returns to investors by filling the building with tenants as quickly as possible. For more than a decade, contractor William Starrett had been refining a construction process that grew out of his leadership during World War I in the rapid construction of domestic military training facilities, a process that maximized the number of building operations carried out simultaneously or in overlapping sequences.
Due to the city’s setback requirements, the limestone-clad building appeared to be a sculpted masonry mass, giving to business imagery the substantial character that businessmen demanded. The uninterrupted metal mullions gleaming in the sunlight emphasized the building’s radical height and served to set off the handsome proportions of its upper and lower setbacks in relation to the soaring tower. Pulled out in front of the rest of the building, the first five stories put the skyscraper’s enormity at a comfortable remove from passersby. Inside, the stylistically transitional lobby sported modernistic chevrons on the floor, while the metal bridge and other rounded features were inspired by modern motifs in recent transport design. In marble and aluminum inlay, a huge elevation of the Empire State Building dominated a large wall mosaic, whose radiating beams celebrated the building’s thoroughly rationalized and improbable elegance.
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