MIDTOWN — The Empire State Building spent tens of thousands of dollars to hide its unsightly loading dock, covering it with a mesh graphic meant to blend in with the rest of the building's art-deco facade.
The faux facade, developed by the 34th Street Partnership, covers blue girders above the high-rise's garage doors with a banner depicting the windows that cover much of the rest of the landmark skyscraper.
The idea was to camouflage the loading dock so that passersby wouldn't have to view the mechanical area, according to the partnership.
“It’s a tough problem for buildings to deal with, because of course that equipment needs to be there," said Ignacio Ciocchini, vice president of design for the partnership, of the $27,000 job.
“We thought that if we could cover that using some cheap design solution that it would be beneficial to the building and anyone else walking around.”
The group hired sign company Project Visual, which manipulated a photograph taken of the building's facade to create an image that matched it to the east of the dock.
Using banners to cover up unsightly construction on historic buildings has long been a common practice in Europe. The Empire State Building cover was made from a translucent, vinyl-coated fabric that allows air to travel through it, according to Julie Ember, an urban designer with the 34th Street Partnership.
The partnership was presented with several ideas for the banner, including different geometric designs and an informational poster with details about the building, but the neighborhood improvement group and the building's management decided to simply replicate of the iconic building's face.
"We'll just pretend the facade continues there," Ciocchini said. "It focuses people's attention on the architecture."
The budgeted $27,000 price tag may seem like a lot, but Ciocchini said any other option — such as adding a garden over the loading dock — would cost much more.
The banner is part of an ongoing 34th Street Partnership project that works with buildings to both improve facades and come up with pleasant design solutions, like adding green walls.
”I think many people will walk by and not notice that that’s an actual graphic — and that’s a good thing," Ciocchini said.
“I think it’s one of those cases when we don’t really want people to notice our work.”