GE Building

GE Building (90)

The first building to be built in the Rockefeller Center was the General Electric Building, a skyscraper known as the RCA Building before 1988, because it served as the headquarters of the Radio Corporation of America.

Completed in 1933, with its 70 floors and 259 metres in height, it is the highest and most prominent building of the entire complex. Designed by the art deco architect Raymond Hood, the GE Building laid down the architectural basis for the rest of the buildings. As a matter of interest, you should know that this was the first skyscraper to feature elevators grouped together in the centre of the structure. And as a fun fact, we can also add that Charles Ebbets’ famous photograph "Lunch atop a Skyscraper" was taken during the construction of this building. You are sure to have come across this emblematic photograph: it depicts several workers having lunch, sitting on a beam hundreds of metres high with the city at their feet. It was taken on September 29, 1932 on what would become the penultimate floor of the building and is one of the more widely reproduced photographs of all times.

Above the main entrance to the Rockefeller Center, you will see a bas-relief that celebrates the triumph of the broadcasting industry titled "Wisdom and Knowledge", by Lee Lawrie, best known for his sculpture of Atlas, located near here, on Fifth Avenue. Inside the building, you will find the surprising mural "Triumph of the Human Race" by José María Sert, which covers the roof of the lobby, although you will probably find it curious to know that the Spanish artist was only the third choice. Pablo Picasso himself had been initially asked to carry out the project, but following this refusal the project was entrusted to the Mexican artist Diego Rivera, who was known at the time for his views in support of communism. Shortly before the inauguration of the building, the artist replaced one of the approved portraits on the model of the work with a different one, which bore a great resemblance to Lenin. Thus, it was ordered that his work be destroyed and replaced by the work of Spanish artist José María Sert, which you can admire to the present day.

The star of the lobby is a huge Swarovski crystal chandelier whose design, they say, is an exact replica of the GE Building if this were turned upside down.

Currently, the building is popularly known as the home of the NBC, the National Broadcasting Company, where the classic Saturday Night Show is filmed, as well as other programs and talk shows typical of the television station.

If your budget allows it, try to book a table in one of its trendiest restaurants and spend an exciting and memorable evening dining atop the GE Building, enjoying the illuminated skyline in the background. 

Finally, do not miss the Top of the Rock Observation Deck, a viewpoint that boasts one of the best views of the city and of Central Park. From up here, on the building’s 70th floor, you can enjoy an unobstructed, 360-degree view and take in the monstrous beauty of New York’s skyscrapers. Access is well signposted from 50th Street, between Rockefeller Center and Sixth Avenue. Go all the way to the top, and you will undoubtedly be left speechless.

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