The Empire State Plaza at 50

Empire State Plaza under construction 1968

A photo from the New York State Archives of the ESP under construction in 1968. (It's from a slide show at that first link below, which includes a bunch of interesting archival photos.)

This summer will be the 50th anniversary of the official corner stone being placed for the Empire State Plaza, and there's a series of events an exhibitions lined up to commemorate the anniversary.

The State Museum will open a new exhibit -- "The Empire State Plaza at 50" -- in June. Blurbage:

Scheduled to open on June 21, 2015 and run through January 17, 2016, this special exhibit will tell the story of the Plaza's construction and evolution. Located in the main lobby and west corridor of the museum, it will include art, photographs, digital displays, original sketches by architects, and examples of the architectural elements that make up the Plaza and where they came from. Visitors to the exhibit will discover how such a massive complex is heated in the winter and cooled in the summer, what the "Rule of 30" is and how it was incorporated into the design of the Plaza, and hear the stories of those who worked on the project.

The ESP is a remarkable, interesting, and unavoidable subject in this area's history. We hope the exhibit, and related events, examine and highlight not just its grandeur, but also its complications and tradeoffs.

Here's a condensed schedule of other events planned for the commemoration:

Here's the expanded info about these events.

September 16: Plaza at 50 Festival
Entertainment, food, fireworks.

September 16: Power, Politics and the Plaza: A Look at Rockefeller and Corning
"Join the discussion as Rockefeller biographer Richard Norton Smith and Corning biographer Paul Grondahl take the stage to discuss the historical events leading to the construction of the Plaza. Former Assemblyman and Albany County Historian John "Jack" McEneny will serve as the moderator."

September 23: An International Capital: The Architecture and Construction of the Empire State Plaza
"The Empire State Plaza was intended to dominate the Albany skyline and make a statement about New York State's political and cultural importance. As the pre-eminent style for modern institutional construction, discover the origins of International Style architecture and how it manifests in the design of the Plaza."

September 30: A Vision for Public Art: The Empire State Plaza Art Collection
"The Empire State Plaza Art Collection has been heralded as the greatest collection of modern American art in any single public site that is not a museum. The collection was assembled during the construction of the Plaza under the direction of Governor Nelson A. Rockefeller who believed it was vital to have the work of artists living and working in New York placed in the capital city. Learn what makes the Plaza's collection unique and how it fulfills Rockefeller's vision of art for the people."

Comments

Before the inevitable flood of 'tear it down' comments begins, I'd like to say that I'm glad the city is putting together these events to commemorate the construction project that has and will continue to define my home city for years to come. I like to think that visits to the Plaza as a kid helped to shape my design tastes and interests.

Like AOA points out, it will be interesting to see how the exhibits present the controversial aspects of building the plaza 50 years ago, but it's most important to remember: it's done, there's no going back. Use what we've learned for future development and enjoy what we have now.

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