The World's Most Famous Building

The Empire State Building Observatory is Squint/Opera’s biggest project to date. A core contributor within the best-in-class team of interdisciplinary professionals including exhibition designers Thinc Design and creative audio studio Antfood, Squint/Opera created all digital elements within the exhibits across more than 10,000 square feet of interior space on the second floor.


The ambitious, four-phase project takes visitors on an immersive journey spanning the Empire State Building’s entire history, from the iconic building’s construction in 1931, to its current relevance as an icon in contemporary pop-culture. Phase Two of the revamped Observatory allows visitors to feel like Empire State Building insiders, with all content and messaging carefully translated into nine languages. The overall redesign of the space was informed by feedback gathered directly from visitors, with its social media ‘shareability’ a key client goal. 

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Squint/Opera’s extensive design scope for this project was made possible by the team’s multidisciplinary, expert-level knowledge to create all digital content within the exhibits, including projections, animation, live-action elements, and immersive technology. In order to conceptualize room-scale in these media-driven exhibits, Squint/Opera’s design process relied heavily upon VR as a design tool. The team utilized SpaceForm, a revolutionary data-driven VR design tool developed by Squint/Opera, to build a 3D visualization of the Empire State Building interior. This VR process is integral to Squint/Opera’s design process and expertise in bringing places to life.  


The King Kong exhibit welcomes guests into a 1930s-era office inside of the Empire State Building, where a life-size King Kong clings to the side of the structure, peering in at viewers and dodging bi-planes as he climbs. Guests can climb into his hand, but getting too close to the window activates simulated shocks from the famous ape. “Squint/Opera is excited to have brought the experience of visiting Empire State Building into the 21st century,” says Callum Cooper, New York-based Squint/Opera Creative Director. “It was wonderful to contribute our international perspective and sensibilities to enhancing this American icon”.


The Construction Gallery was inspired by the photography of Lewis Hine, transporting guests back in time through a looped film that features 30 different actors, where hot rivets and steel beams fly overhead as the construction of the building is in full swing. Nearby, a newspaper boy announces the opening of the Empire State Building to the public.Set to an original score recorded with a 50 piece orchestra commissioned by the Empire State Building, the International Star exhibit celebrates the building’s starring role in pop culture from every decade since the 1930s, incorporating over 600 media pieces that range from Hollywood films and commercials to comic books. A montage that sweeps over 70 screens solidifies the Empire State Building as the “World’s Most Famous Building”. The project was completed in November 2019. 

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