esblights.jpgTwo companies are vying to win a $5 million contract to install a new decorative lighting system at the Empire State Building. Early this morning, Philips Electronics And Color Kinetics went head to head in a test of their systems. An article in The New York Times describes the test:

From 3:58 a.m. to 5:09 a.m. Eastern time, the combatants projected a rainbow of colors from the 72nd floor parapet of the Empire, as its employees call the building. There were solid test-pattern blocks, vibrant stripes, spectrum cascades, strobe effects, and pattern sequences called “Fourth of July,” “New Year’s Eve” and “fireworks.”

The new lighting systems employ computer controlled light emitting diodes (L.E.D.s) that will allow a wide range of colors to be displayed on the upper floors of the building. Currently, a team of maintenance workers must venture out onto the Empire State Building's parapets about 200 times a year to manually switch nine different colored lenses over 208 floodlights. According to the New York Times, the job can take as long as six hours.

Beginning tonight, the ESB will be lit green for the weekend in honor of Earth Day. The building's lighting schedule is available here. If you've ever wondered about what a particular color scheme meant, the building maintains a list of color definitions. The Tower Lights History page is interesting. Something we didn't know: from 1956 to 1964 there was a system of four beacons, five feet in diameter, that would make one syncronized revolution a minute. The "Freedom Lights" could be seen from 80 miles away on the ground and from 300 miles away in the air.

(Equinox, by at flickr)