Friday, August 10, 2012

Hallelujah! Passersby on 33rd Street no longer have to suffer the trauma of looking at the Empire State Building's loading dock


"The idea was to camouflage the loading dock so that passersby wouldn't have to view the mechanical area, according to the [34th Street P]artnership."
-- from "Empire State Building Covers Up Loading Dock
With Faux Facade
," by's Matthew Katz

by Ken

It struck me as a pretty comprehensive report Matthew Katz has offered on these big doings on Manhattan's W. 33rd St. The one thing that seemed to be missing was an account of the human toll -- you know, figures for casualties and fatalities -- from passersby "hav[ing] to view" the loading-area on the south side of the Empire State Building. This would have been helpful, because apparently in the crush of more urgent or sensational news from Midtown, I for one had never heard about this festering problem on 33rd Street.

I'm guessing it's a slight overstatement to say that people had to view this area above the building's obviously crucial loading dock. I'm thinking it's sort of like an eclipse, where people don't have to look but despite all the warnings they do anyway, and the next stop is the Emergency Room to see if anything can be done to save some vision in those hideously scarred eyes. You know how people are when they see a loading dock; they just have to stare, and if they stare too long . . . well, heck, I don't know what happens. This is what I was hoping to find out.

I see in Wikipedia where the Empire State Building "is currently undergoing a $550 million renovation, with $120 million spent in an effort to transform the building into a more energy efficient and eco-friendly structure." And so the $27K the 34th Street Partnership spent on this giant-shower-curtain project really does seem like a pittance.

I'm assuming for the moment that this is all the partnership spent, though the sense I get from the story is that this is the amount actually spent on producing and installing the curtain, leaving open the possibility that more money, possibly quite a lot more money, was actually devoted to the entire process of (a) imagining the problem and (b) imagining solutions to it, including the winning one: "a banner depicting the windows that cover much of the rest of the landmark skyscraper."

Doesn't that look lovely? No more need to cover your eyes! Actual shower curtains based on this design should be available soon at gift shops and other tourist traps all through the service area of the 34th Street Partnership.

Here is Ignacio Ciocchini, the 34th Street Partnership's vice president of design:
"It's a tough problem for buildings to deal with, because of course that equipment needs to be there. We thought that if we could cover that using some cheap design solution that it would be beneficial to the building and anyone else walking around."

The group hired sign company Project Visual, which manipulated a photograph taken of the building's facade to create an image that matched it to the east of the dock.

Using banners to cover up unsightly construction on historic buildings has long been a common practice in Europe. The Empire State Building cover was made from a translucent, vinyl-coated fabric that allows air to travel through it, according to Julie Ember, an urban designer with the 34th Street Partnership.

The partnership was presented with several ideas for the banner, including different geometric designs and an informational poster with details about the building, but the neighborhood improvement group and the building's management decided to simply replicate of the iconic building's face.

"We'll just pretend the facade continues there," Ciocchini said. "It focuses people's attention on the architecture."

The budgeted $27,000 price tag may seem like a lot, but Ciocchini said any other option -- such as adding a garden over the loading dock -- would cost much more.

The banner is part of an ongoing 34th Street Partnership project that works with buildings to both improve facades and come up with pleasant design solutions, like adding green walls.

"I think many people will walk by and not notice that that's an actual graphic -- and that's a good thing," Ciocchini said.

"I think it's one of those cases when we don't really want people to notice our work."

I don't want to rule out the possibility that these people may be on to something. Maybe we should be looking for more eyesores that threaten to afflict the fascinated eyes of persnickety passersby. Jeez Louise, stick a banner over it! Let your imagination roam free! The upcoming presidential nominating conventions, say. Or the House Republican caucus. Both American Idol and The X Factor. The Incorporated Willard.

Paging Prince Potemkin.



Post a Comment

<< Home