Empire State Building
The Empire State Building is a privately owned office building completed in 1931 during the Great Depression as the tallest building in the world, a distinction it enjoyed for decades until it was surpassed by the World Trade Center in 1972. It is the tallest building in New York City. To this day the Empire State Building is considered by a random poll of Americans to be their favorite piece of American architecture. It is also considered the most fire-proof building in America. Architect William F. Lamb (1883 – 1952) was the principal designer.
The Empire State Building is the symbol of New York, just as the Eiffel Tower is to Paris and Big Ben is to London. It is still the biggest tourist attraction in the biggest tourist city in the world. Beautifully finished in the Art Deco style, the vertical lines of the structure give it the appearance of a soaring spire that rises one-fifth of a mile high. This famous skyscraper is also an engineering masterpiece supported by an elastic steel skeleton. The design was the finest work of architect William Lamb, Chief designer for the firm of Shreve, Laub, and Harmon. The "tallest building" when it was finished in April 1931, it lost its title in the 1970's to both Chicago's Sear's Tower and the World Trade Center in New York. It remains, however, New York city's most widely recognized architectural symbol.
The Empire State Building contains steel reinforced by concrete, making it extremely fire-proof. Deputy Chief Fire Department of New York (F.D.N.Y.) Vincent Dunn (ret.) wrote:
- "The more mass the more fire resistance. The best fire resistive building in America is a concrete structure. The structures that limit and confine fires best, and suffer fewer collapses are reinforced concrete pre-WWII buildings such as housing projects and older high rise buildings like the empire state building, The more concrete, the more fire resistance; and the more concrete the less probability of total collapse. The evolution of high- rise construction can be seen, by comparing the Empire State Building to the World Trade Center. The estimate is the ratio of concrete to steel in the empire state building is 60/40."
In 1945, a B-25 bomber crashed into the 79 floor of the Empire State Building in heavy fog, killing 14 persons and igniting a fire. But there was only $1 million in damage and the structure of the building easily survived the impact and the resultant fire. Deputy Chief Dunn noted:
- "A plane that only weighed 10 tons struck the Empire State Building and the high-octane gasoline fire quickly flamed out after 35 minutes. When the firefighters walked up to the 79 floor most of the fire had dissipated. The Empire State Building in my opinion, and most fire chiefs in New York City, is the most fire safe building in America. I believe it would have not collapsed like the WTC towers. I believe the Empire State Building, and for that matter any other skeleton steel building in New York City, would have withstood the impact and fire of the terrorist’s jet plane better than the WTC towers."
- Empire State Building Celebrates 75th Anniversary. The U.S. Department of State's Bureau of International Information Programs.
- Steel Building System. Extract from "Great Buildings The Empire State Building". Written by Gini Holland. Wayland (Publishers) Limited, England. 1997.