Empire State BuildingOne of the USA’s most iconic land marks received a complete makeover at its very top – to the surprise of thousands of New York civilians walking the streets of Manhattan below.

The Empire State Building – famously scaled by King Kong in the 1933 film – was outfitted with a brand new set of 1,200 LED lights, replacing the 400 high intensity discharge lamps originally installed over 30 years ago for the 1976 bicentennial.

Massachusetts based lighting company Philips Colour Kinetics were tasked with the job of installing the new lights, capable of displaying well over 16 million colours, along with a whole host of other dynamic colour changing effects.

With the previous lighting set up, only one of 10 different colours could be used at any time. This would be done by applying coloured gel to each individual lamp – a laborious task requiring an army of workers and many hours of effort.

The new LEDs allow for various colours to be displayed on the 102-storey skyscraper during all kinds of events throughout the city and country – cutting energy costs by up to 75% in the process.

They’ll also last up to 3 times longer too, slashing the cost of maintenance.

The cost of installing the LEDs will come to “a few million dollars” according to Anthony Malkin; CEO of the Empire State Realty Trust, which owns the building. The initial investment though will pay for itself through lower energy demands and less maintenance though.

New York Panoramic ViewThe first light show caught many New Yorkers by surprise however, with R&B superstar Alicia Keys delivering an unannounced live rendition of “Empire State of Mind” on national radio – synchronised with a dancing array of lights from the skyscraper’s newly installed LEDs.

The building “has always been a symbol of what’s possible in New York, and all the dreams that can come true in this city that never sleeps” said Keys, a New York native who also sang “Girl On Fire” that night.

Malkin was highly impressed by what he saw too. “There were hundreds of thousands of people on the streets looking up, filming and videoing, clustered on street corners” he said, with the display visible from Manhattan and the Bronx, to Staten Island and even New Jersey.

The show was done in collaboration with Clear Channel Radio, which is listened to by 239 million people every month.

The project is part of a much wider $120 million renovation, aimed at transforming the building into a more energy efficient and eco-friendly structure. Other changes include a revamp of the ventilation system, its insulation and replacement windows.

The skyscraper received a gold Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) rating in September 2011, making it the tallest LEED certified building in the United States.

With over 16 million colours now at its disposal, the Empire State Building is set to remain the centrepiece of any celebrations that take place in the ‘Big Apple’.