One of the world’s most famous buildings, the Empire State Building, New York, hosts more than four million visitors from around the globe annually. As part of the $165-million redevelopment of the Empire State Building Observatory, the opportunity to transform the attraction’s famed 102nd floor posed an opportunity and unique challenge. To offer visitors clearer views to the city, designers used floor-to-ceiling fire-rated glass in the elevator that goes up to the observation deck.
To get to that 102nd floor, a critical part of the experience is the journey to the top in a new, custom-made glass elevator. Visitors arrive on the 102nd floor in a glass shaft that immediately greets them with jaw-dropping, 360-degree views of the dramatic city skyline before the elevator opens its doors. Fire-rated frames and fire-rated glass form an interior elevator surround that preserves the city’s spectacular views while also providing critical fire resistance.
The Underwriters Laboratories (UL)-classified fire-rated glass and framing system on the 102nd floor will block the transfer of flames, smoke, and radiant and conductive heat for up to two hours, thus safeguarding the observatory floor’s critical area of egress.
“Thanks to its new floor-to-ceiling fire-rated glass enclosure and state-of-the-art elevator, the 102nd floor observatory provides awe-inspiring cityscape views,” said Anthony E. Malkin, CEO of Empire State Realty Trust. “Along with providing fire resistance, the interior curtain walls help maintain purity of view; ideal for tourists looking for an unrivaled view from 381 m (1250 ft) above New York City.”
The fire-rated glass comprises layers of nearly colorless, wireless, low-iron float glass and clear intumescent interlayers. Its unique makeup provides nearly the same level of visual clarity and color as ordinary float glass while still meeting stringent fire- and life-safety criteria.
The fire-rated frames offer narrow profiles and crisp sightlines. This helps preserve the building’s open layout and support code-driven design with custom wrapped corners and stainless-steel cladding. The frames and corners were clad in stainless steel by the metal/glass contractor, creating a system that blends seamlessly with the observatory’s interior aesthetic.
Corgan Associates Architects was the architect on this project.