The GE Building is the centerpiece of the entire Rockefeller Center Complex. This Art Deco skyscraper was known as the RCA Building until 1988 and it is the 9th tallest building in NYC, the 32nd tallest in the United States, and the 60th tallest building in the world. It was built in the 1930s for the Radio Corporation of America. It is also popularly referred to as “30 Rock” and is among the grandest and most dazzling buildings of the Manhattan skyline.
In spite of its somewhat bulky limestone base, the GE building is typified by a larger-than-life grace. In fact, the chunky base earned the building yet another nickname “The Slab.” When it was constructed this 70-story building was considered to be quite modern for its time. It had a contemporary open lobby and an escalator connecting the ground floor to lower-level shops, a novelty back then.
The Rockefellers were fond of providing guidance to commissioned artists and in keeping with the tradition of the ’30s, they hired a philosopher to do so. The Rockefeller complex showcases more than 100 pieces of original art, and some of the best works are on display at 30 Rock. For an art lover, this place is a veritable paradise.
Of interest is the sculptural relief over the plaza-side entrance by Lee Lawrie. It depicts a very fierce-looking Zeus in limestone and glass and it is highly allegorical in nature. There is also a message sculpted below the relief that states “Wisdom and Knowledge shall be the stability of thy times.” It is an excerpt from the Biblical book of Isaiah.
The black and beige lobby originally had a mural designed and painted by left-winged artists Diego Rivera and Ben Shahn. It depicted Lenin as a worker’s leader, which was considered to be too controversial. That’s why it was replaced with a more appropriate painting that featured Ralph Waldo Emerson, Abe Lincoln, and some other less controversial and more popular figures by Jose Maria Sert. Other pieces of art that are particularly striking are Paul Manship’s famous gilded statue of Prometheus bringing fire to mankind and another sculpture by Lee Lawrie depicting Atlas supporting the earth.
Today, this historical building houses most of NBC’s New York studios, including the home of Saturday Night Live, Studio 8H. You can join a tour to get a sneak peek into the NBC Studios which are conducted every day at fifteen-minute intervals
30 Rockefeller Plaza, between 49th and 50th Streets