The Empire State Building is an American icon. It is perhaps the most recognizable building in the world. It is a cultural landmark, an amazing accomplishment, and a metaphor for the American dream. Now, as the Empire State Building nears its 80th anniversary, a new building is rising above Manhattan to join it in defining the New York skyline: Tower One of the World Trade Center. This building, which sits just next to the footprints of the fallen Twin Towers, will also have a strong emotional symbolism for Americans. Empire tells the fascinating story behind these two steel giants. How has skyscraper construction changed in 80 years? How has it remained the same? And who are the men and women responsible for bringing these engineering masterpieces to life?

There are many differences between the two buildings. The Empire State Building is solid, classic, and clad in limestone. Tower One will be airy, modern, and covered in glass. But they are also very similar. That similarity is most apparent in the familial connection between the men who built the Empire State Building and the men who are currently working on Tower One. In many cases, Tower One workers have grandfathers who worked on the Empire State Building.

In order to make the Empire State Building come to life, Empire uses cinematic recreations using the latest in visual effects technology. In these stunningly beautiful scenes, viewers can feel what it was like to hang off of high steel and look down over 1930’s Manhattan. Tower One is a highly restricted construction site. Empire was granted special access to film high above street level with the men and women responsible for its construction. This access provides an exciting look at what the building will be when it is complete.

Empire is a fascinating look at how our most ambitious architectural dreams become reality.

Tune in to the premiere of Empire this Sunday, May 20th at 8P on National Geographic Channel.