Empire State Building

New York City, New York, USA

Photo Credits: John Brandon Miller and Philips Color Kinetics

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Rising 102 stories above the streets of Manhattan, the Empire State Building (ESB) is internationally recognized for its rich history, graceful Art Deco architecture, and elegant tower lights, which illuminate the top 30 stories with various color schemes to mark important anniversaries and events. Until recently, a team of electricians was required to change the colors of the high-intensity discharge (HID) lighting arrays positioned on the tower's 72nd and 81st floors. For each color change, this team would spend hours manually installing color disks on each fixture — a costly, high-maintenance procedure.

In 2012, building owner Anthony Malkin of Malkin Holdings, LLC, launched an initiative to modernize the tower by installing a more dynamic and energy-efficient lighting system. Philips Color Kinetics, the industry's premier LED lighting provider, was the clear choice for a partner in this immense project.

The design objective for the ambitious retrofit was to select and install a lighting solution capable of highlighting the tower's striking architectural details with the ESB's signature white light, while also adding the ability to change colors and lighting effects in real-time using a custom digital controller. As the prime contractor for this project, Philips Color Kinetics was tasked with developing a comprehensive turnkey solution that involved managing every aspect of the retrofit, from luminaire manufacturing to engineering and installation.

Due to the ESB's prominent appearance in the New York City skyline, the building owners required that the tower lights must be kept lit as usual every night during the installation. This meant that for every existing lighting fixture the installation team removed, a new LED fixture had to be installed, wired, and connected to a temporary lighting control solution that would adjust that fixture's color and intensity to perfectly match the fluorescent and HID fixtures around it — an unprecedented installation challenge.

For the tower's mast and bands, the installation team replaced the existing fluorescent tube lighting with two adjacent columns of linear LED luminaires featuring RGB and tunable white nodes.