Sky-High: The Empire State Building Opens a New 102nd-Floor Observatory

The “World’s Most Famous Building” now boasts even greater views.

Nathaniel Bahadursingh Nathaniel Bahadursingh

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Adding to its designation as the “World’s Most Famous Building”, the Empire State Building has opened its new 102nd-floor observation deck. Designed by local firm Thinc Design, the space has been remodeled with floor-to-ceiling windows, offering a panoramic, 360º viewing experience from 1,250 feet above street level. 

The 102nd-floor observatory’s southern view; image via Drew Angerer/Getty Images

This is the third of a four phased top-to-bottom reimagining of the Empire State Building visiting experience. The first phase of the project, which opened last year, was a new and expanded 34th street entrance made to accommodate increasing visitation to the iconic landmark, which already hosts in excess of four million people annually.

The rejuvenated space boasts a finely crafted, architecturally accurate, two-story model of the building, which is encircled by a grand staircase adorned with details adapted from featured of the Empire State Building. The new lobby also features automated, Deco-styled ticket kiosks, digital directional signs, and interactive host screens. As a result, visitors are no longer subject to long, stagnate lines and can now enjoy an open and active entry experience. 

The 34th street lobby experience; image via Thinc Design

The new and improved queue space

The second phase, which opened to the public this past July, introduces a state of the art, 10,000-square-foot exhibit space that guides visitors through the building’s history from its construction to its current status in pop culture. The $165 million project, situated on the second floor, features a series of immersive spaces.

An exhibit taking visitors into the construction of the Empire State Building; image via Thinc Design

In one room the sights and sounds of 1930s-era New York are brought to life, in which screens aligned along the walls depict workers, in real time, tossing hot rivets with steel beams flying overhead. Another space outlines the specific measures taken to make the Empire State Building a world leader in sustainability and a leading example in energy efficiency.

Design company Squint/Opera created the feature projections, animation, live-action elements, and immersive technology throughout the 10,000-square-foot galleries. This included the King Kong exhibit, where the fingers of the famous King Kong pierce through the walls of a vintage office, and the construction room to the “World’s Most Famous Building” exhibit that showcases a montage that sweeps over 70 screens with over 600 media pieces. The team is also working on digital media for the 86th floor.

King Kong invading the building; images via Thinc Design

However, the experience doesn’t stop there. The incredible views of the 86th-floor have been surpassed with the 102nd-floor observation deck, which offers a much more expansive and almost limitless view of New York City and beyond. Visitors are transported the extra 16 stories through a glass-enclosed elevator, which provides a glimpse inside the building’s mooring mast.

Patrons are then introduced to a space where every feature serves the sole purpose of enhancing the viewing experience. Pre-existing waist-high panels were removed and replaced with 24 eight-foot, floor-to-ceiling windows with special made glass that reduces surface reflectivity. Even the grey paint that covered the ceiling was chosen to allow for optimal light settings for viewing and picture taking.

The Empire State Building’s shadow serving as a sun dial

This is no doubt one of the best views you can get in New York City — and the extra $20 to access it from the 86th floor indicates that owners of this space are all-too-aware of that. However, for those of you willing to take the plunge, or rather ascent, the new observation deck is now open to the public with operating hours of 8 a.m. to 2 a.m. daily.

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