I visited New York and Miami over the last two weeks, and made the very most of every moment whilst I was there, so I am writing these blog posts on reflection. This is also helping me process everything I saw and experienced and consider how I could use this information moving forward.
I had six full days in New York which was a good amount of time to cover my aims for the research, but I planned very carefully in advance arranging meetings, scheduling visits and travel timings between locations so that I could make the most of each day. Each day I was out by 8 am and usually not back by 10ish to maximise opening hours!
The first day I rose very early due to time differences (New York is 5 hours behind UK) and was at the Empire State Building by 8 am. I’d recommend going at this time – there are no queues but some British tourists!
The first day I had planned to visit Manhattan 1930s buildings. Using the Art Deco Society of New York Online Directory (I’d recommend this) I traced routes in advance to see the ‘power’ buildings constructed in what we now call the ‘art deco’ period to make this most efficient route and to not miss anything.
I have visited the Empire State Building before, about 15 years ago but not for research purposes. They have now built a new entrance around the other side of the building for a quicker and more spacious entry. Therefore the iconic entrance foyer is not viewed until you have gone up the building and on your exit. The tickets are not cheap but there are two exhibitions included in the cost, and the whole experience is run slickly similarly to embarking a Disneyland ride.
The Empire State Building was designed by Shreve, Lamb and Harmon, and completed in 1931. The building was commissioned by Empire State Inc, a business venture that involved businesses and former New York Governor Al Smith. When completed it was taller than the Chrysler Building and 40 Wall Street, and was the worlds tallest building until the construction of the World Trade Center in 1970. ‘Empire State’ was a nickname for New York, I’m not sure if this is still a common name, but talks about the idea of New York as being the centre of everything.
It is obviously one of the most popular ‘art deco’ buildings in New York, mentioned hundreds of times in film, tv and popular culture, and a heavily visited tourist destination.
The exhibition half way up explains the construction, design, symbolism and life of the Empire State through photography and information boards. The lift up and walkways within the buildings are incredibly ornate and decorative, even and especially by today’s standards. On the main viewing platform, you can take in views of the city of skyscrapers, and the Empire State’s neighbours; the Chrysler, General Electric Building, One World Trade Center. It’s an epic view, filled of upward ambition, hope for attainment, crammed into what is a relatively small area.
The true delight for me was accessing the lobby on departure. The well-known mural shows the magnificent Empire State radiating light across the sky with the map of nearby states below. Every aspect of the installation is considered from the marble floors, walls, ceilings and doorways, it is one of the most elaborate, proudly outwardly powerful spaces I have ever been in.