Empire State Plaza

The Empire State Plaza was the vision and legacy of New York Governor Nelson A. Rockefeller. The idea for the government complex purportedly arose from the visit of Princess Beatrix of Holland in 1959 and Rockefeller’s embarrassment of the decaying streets around the capitol.

Wallace K. Harrison, who worked with the Rockefeller family on earlier projects, was selected as the architect. (In the 1930s he served as a junior partner on Rockefeller Center in New York City.) Harrison designed large architectural complexes that often centered on water, and the Empire State Plaza became his last monumental undertaking.

Construction began in 1962 and lasted until 1978, changing the face of Albany and displacing an entire neighborhood. George A. Fuller Company and a multitude of subcontractors accomplished the engineering and construction of four cantilevered agency buildings, the Erastus Corning Tower, the Justice Building, the Legislative Office Building, the Motor Vehicles Building, the Egg, and the Cultural Education Center as well as the Plaza and underground concourse.

Marcel F. Mutin worked as chief designer for Harrison. Born in France in 1910 and educated at the Ecole des Beaux Arts in Paris, Mutin came to the U.S. in the late 1940s. He opened his own firm in New York in the mid-1950s and became one of the top architectural renderers in the nation. His renderings for the Empire State Plaza show some of the original concepts for the project. Some were realized while others were not, like the triumphal arch at the south end of the Plaza occupied today by the Cultural Education Center.


Magnifying Glass
Architectural Rendering, Proposed View of South Mall Looking Northeast
Marcel F. Mutin (1910–1988)
c. 1962
Tempera on board
Albany Institute of History & Art Purchase
Construction of the Empire State Plaza
Unidentified maker
c. 1970
Color slide
Albany Institute of History & Art Library