The Empire State Building delivered the last word in the 1930s skyscraper height wars, but fame has not exempted it from the ongoing competition of contemporary office design. Its Art Deco lobby will undergo a restoration and upgrade by Beyer Blinder Belle Architects & Planners (BBB), pending approval from the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission. Finished in floor-to-ceiling marble, the double-height lobby was designed by Shreve, Lamb and Harmon and completed in 1931. The building became a protected city landmark in 1981.

As part of the restoration, an original ceiling mural in gold and aluminum leaf depicting a linear constellation of abstract, machine-age starbursts would be revealed and rebuilt after stripping away 1960s fluorescent lighting panels. "Ceilings were an integral part of many Art Deco buildings' personality," says BBB partner in charge Richard Metsky. "They set the mood, theme, and setting for office tenants and guests." New ceiling cove lights using energy-efficient, cold-cathode technology would recall the lobby's original incandescents in illuminating the mural and providing ambient light. In addition, carefully placed spotlights would shine straight down, eliminating the glare that currently mars the walls. BBB is also studying ways to improve reception, signage, and security in conjunction with overall renovations being made by building owner Empire State Building Associates.

BBB has previously restored the lobbies of other Deco landmarks in New York, including the Graybar Building, Rockefeller Center (lower concourse), and the Chrysler Building, which in 1930 preceded the Empire State Building as the tallest tower in the world.