New York City, like no other, shines through its constant state of flux, through the destruction of historical monuments and the erection of new edifices. This modernist tendency subsides only infrequently under the pitiless pressures of development. Thus the massive neon red-light signs gleaming proudly upon the roof-deck lounge of the Empire Hotel gift the urban dweller with history from the sidewalk and recreation from the bar. (See our gallery of the altitudinous scene.) An express lobby elevator sweeps revelers up to a cascade of interlocking support frames permitting a cultured view of Lincoln Center across the way.
Sir Thomas More believed that human nature could withstand the harshly varying impositions of the seasons — that a sound connectivity with mankind would drive one through the harsh winds of hypocrisy, beyond the hot humidity of subterfuge in summer … well, you get the drift. He suggested we all should be men “for all seasons.” The Empire Hotel Rooftop is a space for all seasons.
That the massive eastern terrace was carefully preserved while integrating cabana and bar is testament to designer Chris Kofitsas’ sense of historicity. The neon lights reflect off adjacent facades to project a powerful feeling of continuity. Without the overly conscious effort seen in most lighting schemes, the signs provide a quiet glow upon loungers. Moreover, a clever wrapped-glass bar oozes out of the support structure to offer truss, beam, crossbar, and booze.
The most impressive though seemingly misplaced furniture concoction stands at the entrance and central bar: “There are over 13,000 concentric pipes in various diameters, cut at the center and glued together into 3” lengths that make up the bar face,” says Kofitsas. This eccentricity beams in contrast to the understated and somewhat flaccid flexibility of the other comfy components. Sir T. More would have appreciated that less is more.
Most adaptively, and consistent with a 365-day-a-year body and soul, a clever HVAC and retractable roof system transforms the western terrace. The Roll-a-Cover system is “built in track with wheels along the base of each panel segment that allows the panels to slide over each other and offer 80% open-air environment, which is perfect for sipping martinis on a starry night.” The massive solar gain of the interior space on a warm day is compensated for not only by AC but by a super-fine mister built within the conduits, which serves to level the elements. Oh yes, here humanity’s party may persist uninterrupted.
From Lincoln Center, we peer back in delight at the prodigious signage that withstands the wildly wandering atmospheric spirals of the city. Let us pray to our humanist Gods that the fickle city we live in veers not toward signage demolition. Let’s hope that this Empire epitomizes not the vicissitudes of Henry VIII, who ultimately came down upon his trusted advisor, Thomas More, summarily cutting off his head.