Rockefeller Center is a large complex consisting of 19 commercial buildings covering 22 acres (89,000 m2) between 48th and 51st Streets, facing Fifth Avenue, in New York City. Commissioned by the Rockefeller family, it is located in the center of Midtown Manhattan.
The 14 original Art Deco buildings span the area between Fifth and Sixth Avenues, split by a large sunken square and a private street called Rockefeller Plaza. Five International Style buildings, built later, are located on the west side of Sixth Avenue and at the north end of Rockefeller Plaza.
In 1928, the site’s then-owner, Columbia University, leased the land to John D. Rockefeller Jr., who was the main person behind the complex’s construction. Originally envisioned as the site for a new Metropolitan Opera building, the current Rockefeller Center came about after the Met could not afford to move to the proposed new building. Various plans were discussed before the current one was approved in 1932. Construction of Rockefeller Center started in 1931, and the first buildings opened in 1933. The core of the complex was completed by 1939.
Rockefeller Center has two parts: the original center and the later International-style buildings. The original center has several sections: Radio City, for RCA’s radio-related enterprises such as the Music Hall and 30 Rockefeller Plaza
Described as one of the greatest projects of the Great Depression era, Rockefeller Center was declared a New York City landmark in 1985 and a National Historic Landmark in 1987. It is noted for the large quantities of art present on almost all of its Art Deco buildings, as well as its Radio City section and its ice-skating rink. The complex is also famous for its annual lighting of the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree.
The observation deck atop the skyscraper, dubbed “Top of the Rock”, is built to resemble the deck of an ocean liner. It offers sightseers a bird’s eye view of the city, competing with the 86th-floor observatory of the Empire State Building 200 feet (61 m) higher. It is often considered the best panoramic city view, if only because it offers a view of the aforementioned Empire State Building, which cannot be seen from its own observation deck.