A Unique, Dramatic Observatory Experience Is Opening In New York

There are observation decks for viewing a city’s panorama all over the world including several already positioned in New York. But none can quite match the experience of observing this city from SUMMIT One Vanderbilt, the 65,000 square foot, four level space opening October 21st with tickets going on sale today.

Finding the entrance feels like uncovering a secret: it’s tucked into a remote corridor connected to Grand Central Station. After moving through a hallway enlivened by video screens, visitors skim upward 1000 feet by elevator in 42 seconds, opening into Air, a bilevel space designed by artist Kenzo Digital, CEO of Kenzo Digital Immersive, with multiple refractions, sounds and mirror images. When I walked through in a preview a few weeks ago, it felt like being in the center of a diamond with cascading prisms. The artist describes it this way: “Air is a living, breathing entity, expressed through its multisensory use of sound, lighting and production design. It’s a story that evolves with each successive space, bringing visitors deeper and deeper into the experience until finally, they become part of it, inviting visitors of any age to revel in collective wonder. Through its boundless juxtapositions of form, Air compels you to live in the present moment: calm, aware and free.”

And that’s just the interior. With its location in the center of midtown Manhattan, the observatory provides views south toward the Empire State Building and the World Trade Center beyond, a closeup of the neighboring Chrysler Building, over to the rivers and uptown toward Central Park. For those who want to interact even more closely with the views, the LEVITATION sky boxes on the upper level, 1,063 feet above Madison Avenue, are perches of completely transparent glass including floors—exhilarating if not for the height averse.

Also exhilarating and definitely not for the height averse is a ride on ASCENT the all glass elevator, floor included, up the side of the building to a vantage point 1200 feet above the street, the highest viewing point in midtown. It’s a bird’s eye view in the most literal sense, a feeling of being one with the sky.

Down at the base of that elevator, 100 feet below, the SUMMIT TERRACE wrapping around the building’s south and west sides also affords spectacular outdoor views, reportedly up to 60 miles on a clear day. There’s also greenery, giving an outdoor Central Park feel to the indoor space, along with APRES, a café featuring a light menu and cocktail program created by noted New York restaurateur Danny Meyer’s Union Square Events and operating both indoors and on the terrace. “Our team is proud to add additional flavor to this thrilling new destination that will place a resounding exclamation point on New York City’s renaissance,” explains Meyer, Founder and CEO of Union Square Hospitality Group.

When it opens, the various platforms will unveil fall colors and clear skies but given its all out exposure to the scenery and the elements, it’s easy to imagine coming back up here to watch lightning storms crackle around the skyscrapers or in winter, blizzards blanket the city. “It’s going to be hard for people to visit just once,” according to Marc Holliday, Chairman and CEO of SL Green Realty Corp, the real estate investment trust behind the project. Given the overall experience, he could well be right.

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