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1931, the Empire State Building was the highest building in the world. It was surpassed in its impressiveness only by the first World Trade Center in the 1970s. The man who played a significant role in the development of the ESB was Al Smith, an ambitious man and a reformer. From the 1920s on, New York was continually reinventing itself. Families of immigrants had already become an important part of the city's life. Led by their hopes to fulfill the American dream, many of the immigrants dealt nevertheless with the social conditions of the time. Smith, who became governor of the United States in 1918, was himself a man who could identify with them, having grown up on the Lower East Side of Manhattan. As a child, he witnessed the construction of the Brooklyn Bridge, a project that represented one of the foolproof elements that New York was developing into a modern urban settlement. Architects, musicians, valuable professionals, etc., were immigrating to America as well and some would define many features of this new world. Music and art prominently flourished and devoured the ever growing population in the city. The center of New York busied with dozens of people and new enterprises but it was not long before space would become a concerning and recurring issue. Housing facilities, enterprises, city infrastructure, had to be able to meet the needs and the expectations of the lifestyle in the city. New building projects had to be reinvented thus, and resource materials renewed to ensure safer and longer -- lasting edifices. Steel had replaced brick and mortar since the first few years of the twentieth century when the need for more sustainable support structure was acknowledged for tall buildings.
With tall buildings, also came the necessity of transportation between stories and Elisha Otis' invention of the brake which is now used in modern elevators served the development of the machines. However, imminent dangers that buildings are subject to regularly, now became more threatening since, inside the impressive edifices, fires escalated viciously and brought about dozens of deaths. The necessity for more fire exists and appropriate space expansion became imperious. In this sense, Smith passed legislation that required specific safety measures and tall buildings continued to grow thus taller and frequent. When the Great Depression hit New York, the exuberance tempered and people struggled not with dancing or entertainment anymore but with economic difficulties and no jobs. Then, the Empire State Building rose like a monument toward the sky, climbing people's hopes to heaven. Al Smith sought this project a landmark for the difficult time the New Yorkers were experiencing, a project of the future that would capture people's imagination. This was meant to become an icon of the world that would not only win the skyscraper race that had been going on in New York since the 20s but indeed conquer the entire world. And on January 22nd, 1930, the excavation of the site where the Empire State Building would stand began.
The construction of the majestically tall building was sought and planned by Smith along with John J. Raskob. Because this was such a large project, appropriate and sustainable space had to be found. It also needed to be located in an area that was profiting and resourceful. Because Manhattan was the place where buildings laid on mostly bedrock, it was decided that it was there where the building would benefit from strong, effective foundation that only a rock as enormous and capable of supporting great physical force as bedrock could provide. The architectural firm of Shreve, Lamb, & Harmon took on designing the profile of the building but it was Raskob who suggested the thick pencil shape to which the architects finally settled on. Thus, the wheels had been set in motion for the most grandiose building in the world to be shaped. And the plan for the building, as revealed by Lamb, was:
A certain amount of space in the center, arranged as compactly as possible, contains the verticular circulation, toilets, shafts, and corridors. Surrounding this is a perimeter of office space 28 feet deep. The sizes of the floors diminish as the elevators decrease in number. In essence there is a pyramid of non-rentable space surrounded by a greater pyramid of rentable space. (as quoted in USDI/NPS NRHP 10)
The idea behind the plan was that the compacted association of space would favor the building of as many stories as possible. It was also Raskob who sought the building should have a "hat" that would further extend its height. Initially, this was sought to be a dock for mooring airships in an envisioning and anticipation from Raskob who, as a business man, relished on the ?hat's? aim of attracting international travel. It was revealed later one that New York's weather conditions did not allow for the sake docking of airship. Once the designed was approved and supplemented, the construction process could be initiated and builders Starrett Bros. & Eken, although frank in their confession that no utilities they held could ever build the edifice, were nevertheless co-opted by Raskob. The latter would sponsor the acquisition of new building equipment of which he was ensured will be most effective. From that moment on, the budget was strictly calculated, the orders scrupulously checked and the timing set.
Following the demolition of the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel, on whose site the Empire would rise, the initial step of the building process was the steel frame skeleton. 57,000 tons of steel were needed to finalize the skeleton. Construction workers toiled at heights of up to 1,440 above the ground, gaining a name for themselves as ?air-treaders. While the numbers of workers who were engaged in the process varied occasionally, at peak times, as many as 3,400 could work at one time. The speed at which the building was constructed resulted in a framework rate of 4 1/2 stories every week which is indeed inspiring with the edifice having been finalized ahead of the due-date. Work on the building having officially commenced on March 17, 1930, it was completed by May 1st 1931.
The building was thought with a grand entrance that would make use of an approximate five-story base. The 80th floor was where the design incorporated narrower space and the first observation deck was to occupy the 85th floor. A second one would be incorporated at the top of the building on floor 102. One of the reasons why timing did not represent a problem is in relation to the management of supplies. These were acquired in exact accordance with the gradual process of building, starting with the base and paving the way to the top. It was less time consuming and indeed more work effective. Every element was on a tight schedule and pursued within a strict frame of work. Once the two hundred and ten steel columns were framed vertically, the transportation of materials, which were needed to proceed with the embodiment of the building, was ensured by a railway construction. Rather than the wheelbarrow, the railway car allowed for heavier transportation and easier motion. Bricks and stone were stored in a container in the basement from where they would be loaded into carts and transported above, to where it was needed. The delivery of materials followed a strict and concise framework almost as if it were the building of a Lego edifice. The steel beams and stonework was usually assembled before being transported to the workers on various floors, this way they were ready to be placed, allowing for an easy-going division of labor.
Given the number of stories in the building, transport of people who would eventually work there needed to be addressed intelligently and effective. This is why part of the elevators functioned between floors to ensure a minimum of interruptions. The Otis Company provided the building faster elevators that were as well sought to short the time it took to reach higher floors.
The Empire State Building was designed with a few decorative features. It is architecturally classified as Art Deco Style, representative for the period. It is a tiered construction, resembling a pyramidal form. The exterior is clad in limestone and granite and the mullions are lined in aluminum. There is an impressive play of light and shadow, emphasized also by the 6,500 windows. All four facets are visible from the street. As it is today, the Empire State Building is located at 350 Fifth Avenue, New York City. It rises at 1250 ft. with a footprint of 424 ft. x 187 ft. There is a total of 2,678, 000 square ft. And a total number of 73 elevators of which 64 in central core. The extension of the tower now serves as a broadcast antenna. The total cost of the building process sums up 41 million dollars. After the official opening of the building in 1931 however, the economic situation did not allow it to become an important commercial and business center as Raskob…[continue]
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