The Empire State Building is one of the most popular and impressive cultural symbols of New York and the United States of America in general. Although now this building is not the highest skyscraper in the world, its role in the history of the USA is unprecedented.
The Empire State Building had been the world's tallest building for a long time - from 1931 until 1970. Its height together with the lightning rod is 443.2 meters. The building is mostly designed according to the traditions of Art Deco style that was popular in the world in the 1920s, but the general form of the building is quite simple. It is a straight vertical structure narrowed at the top, thus resembling a sharpened pencil. It has 107 floors, and the general area of the building is 208,879 square meters (Taurnac, 2014). The Empire State Building was designed by William F. Lamb, but the general publicity was mostly owed to Alfred E. Smith, a former Governor of New York (Kingwell, 2008).
The Empire State Building and other skyscrapers built in the first decades of the twentieth century were the response to an enormous flow of the immigrants coming to New York from all over the world. The city became the business capital of the USA, but the territory of Manhattan, its main center, was not big enough to provide room for everyone. Therefore, the only solution to this problem was to construct higher buildings. As Berman (2003) explains, "This phenomenon was made possible by technological advances, most notable the passenger elevator and steel-framed construction, which could support much taller buildings" (p. 9). The Empire State was planned to be the tallest building in the USA, so the amount of resources needed for its construction was obviously enormous - "10,000 tons of metal..., fifty-eight planned elevators..., ten million bricks... and 200,000 cubic feet of Indiana limestone" (Kingwell, 2008, p. 9). The construction started on March 17, 1930 and finished on April 11, 1931. Obviously, the speed of work was unprecedented. It could be explained both by the 'builder-friendly' design of the building and very efficient logistic systems.
The Empire State Building was constructed in the middle of the Great Depression, and the necessity of its construction was under serious discussion at that period. Despite the fact that only 25% of its offices were occupied a year after had been finished, the building had quite a positive impact on New York's economy as it provided 3,400 workers with jobs every day (Tauranac, 2014). It also served as a powerful symbol of inspiration for the nation that had suffered from huge social and economic difficulties, and this aspect should not be underestimated. The construction workers were a very multi-ethnic community. For instance, the Mohawk Indians were the best high altitude steel workers, and a significant Irish working community participated in the construction of the skyscraper (Berman, 2003). In a metaphoric sense, the Empire State Building replaced cathedrals that used to be the tallest buildings of cities and towns. However, there, people did not pray to gods but commerce, success, and the spirit of the USA.
One of the most popular fears about such skyscrapers as the Empire State Building was that they would not be stable during strong winds, but the construction proved to be a very solid one. Even one of the most horrible episodes in the history of this building when a plane crashed into it between the 79th and 80th floors in 1945 did not cause any significant damage to the whole structure. This incident provoked a change in the US legislation, allowing any American citizen to sue the government for the damage done to him and his property (Berman, 2003).
The Empire State Building appeared in various movies for an endless number of times. Half of the films where the events happen in New York feature this building as an important cultural landmark. First, it is necessary to mention two films about King Kong (1933 and Peter Jackson's remake of 2005). The episodes with King Kong on top of the Empire State building became one of the most widely recognized icons of the Hollywood cinematography. This building was also often filmed in other classical American movies such as West Side Story (1961), Sleepless in Seattle (1993), and many others. Being an icon of the American culture, the building is often destroyed in various catastrophe movies, symbolizing the devastating impact of the featured disaster. One of the best examples are Independence Day (1996) and Knowing (2009).
How It Works
Nowadays, the Empire State Building is significantly modernized and improved. It even received a gold LEED rating in September 2011 for its outstanding achievements in energy and ecology sustainability, which is one of few awards for the building of such height (Tauranac, 2014). After the September 11 attacks, almost all city's broadcasting stations moved their transmitter facilities to the top of this building. It also has modern Observation Decks that became a world-famous landmark and a must-visit place for all New York tourists.
To conclude, the Empire State Building is one of the most notable architectural structures in New York, serving not only as important business center but also as a great cultural symbol of the city and the nation in general. Having been the tallest building in the world for 39 years and still functioning at the top of its abilities today, the Empire State Building is a tribute to the excellent skills of its architects and builders as well as to the spirit of the American nation.