Thinc has recently completed the new 34th Street guest entrance into the Empire State Building (ESB). The 18,000 square-foot entry experience is the first installment of a spectacular reimagining of the Observatory that celebrates the historic icon and introduces a wide range of innovative and immersive experiences along the way to its singular views of New York. Thinc is the Experience Designer for the reimagined Observatory, working in collaboration with Beneville Studios, IDEO, and a host of other consultants and production partners who have offered expertise to the project from digital media to lighting and fabrication. The new and expanded entrance will graciously accommodate increasing visitation to the ESB, already in excess of four million people annually.
"I came to the Empire State Building for the first time at the age of seven, and have never forgotten the thrill of finally being there after months of anticipation," commented Tom Hennes, founding principal of Thinc. "As it has for me all my life, this building occupies a unique, even mythic place in the imagination of people around the world that transforms its authentic stone, metal, and glass into an embodiment of soaring human aspirations.
"In this completely new entry, we've built upon the integrity of the building's robust Art Deco style and materiality, while creating spectacular new elements that celebrate its place in the public awareness. Along the way, we've worked with a team of technical experts to elevate and ease every aspect of guests' entry journey."
The centerpiece of the new entry is an extraordinarily crafted, two-story model of the building, framed by a grand staircase replete with stainless steel and brass details adapted from features of the ESB. Rising from an exhibit that celebrates signature lighting atop the building, the grand staircase leads to a second-floor entry gallery lined with huge photomurals that capture the ESB's essential character, its place in the cityscape of New York, and its place in the public imagination. One string of custom-built, Deco-inspired touchscreen kiosks speeds the ticketing process, while another, spaced throughout the gallery, features a selection of the popular Observatory hosts, who tell personal stories of the building and offer unique insights into their own experience of New York. Reflecting the wide range of international visitation to the ESB, every kiosk, an array of new digital wayfinding devices, and all exhibition text offer nine languages.
Thinc has worked with its collaborating partners under the leadership of Empire State Realty Trust to amplify what people love about the building while enhancing the entry experience in this first phase of the renewal. By alternately revealing the original structure of the building and integrating key building details into new design, the team has created an altogether new experience interwoven with the authentic fabric of the building. Hennes said this approach was inspired by the thoroughgoing regeneration of the Empire State Building itself over the past decade, under Empire State Realty Trust ownership.
Photography: Evan Joseph