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Friday Arts Feature - The Empire State Building

by British Awakening – 6 Sep 2019

I guess it’s always difficult to say what is the most beautiful building in the world, after all it is a very subjective question, and as soon as you think of a building minutes later another one pops into your head (as I write a demon keeps whispering into my ears it’s the Chrysler Building). The way I have framed this question is what is the building that has consistently had a place in my heart? For me the answer is simple and immediate, the Empire State Building 5th and 34th, Manhattan, New York.

So a few simple facts about the building, it is a 102 story building and stands 1,250 feet high. It was designed in the Art Deco style (always a winner with me) by Shreve, Land and Harmon. Construction started in March 1930 and it opened in May 1931. The name itself comes simply from the nickname for the state of New York – the Empire State.

Since I was a child I have had a fascination with tall buildings, and I had an ambition to go to New York to see the skyscrapers I kept reading about. Although the Empire State Building was no longer the tallest building in the world (or New York for that matter) there was something special about it. The ill-fated twin towers of the World Trade Centre seemed to be just uninteresting rectangular blocks and did not compare in terms of grace and form.

I was fortunate to visit New York for the first time in the nineties, it was a warm summer’s evening when I left JFK airport. Being on a budget I took the bus into Manhattan and I remember the first glimpse of the Manhattan skyline in the sunset, to the south lay the twin towers but in the middle there it was the building I had dreamed about seeing since I was a kid, a towering steeple of joy.

I had a room at a budget hotel on 29th Street, in the nineties that part of Manhattan was a bit run down but I still popped out for a beer and I saw the building for the first time up close and stood transfixed. At that time and in that part of Manhattan the jokey advice was to avoid constantly looking up as you were so obviously a tourist but I simply could not help myself, the Empire State building is an awesome sight, impressive but not imposing its elegance seems to blend its scale not force it upon us to make us cower. It’s not a tower, it is a building and a building that needed to be tall for you to appreciate it.

I was back in New York last October. Manhattan has so many more skyscrapers now but still, much like King Kong, I was drawn once more to the Empire State Building. It was a day or two before Thanksgiving and the pleasure of my renewed acquaintance was amplified by the excitement surrounding the preparations for the parade by the nearby Macey’s store.

Here is a picture I took from just outside of Macey’s. By the way if you ever want a definition of bonkers walk up Broadway into Times Square on the run up to Thanksgiving, it’s mad, utterly.

As you might have guessed I have a fondness for New York and Art Deco architecture, and there are other buildings in the Big Apple that I hope to write about in the near future, but it seemed appropriate to start with the Empire State Building and end on an Empire State of Mind.

Enjoy your weekend!

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