What to Expect at SUMMIT One Vanderbilt, NYC’s Newest Observation Experience
Oct 21, 2021 | By: Emily Nonko
What does it feel like to look down upon the New York grid and then up to a mirrored ceiling designed to challenge your perception of space? Surreal, out-of-body, and otherworldly are a few words that come to mind during the one-of-a-kind experience opening this week at the top of the One Vanderbilt skyscraper.
On October 21st, SUMMIT One Vanderbilt will become the city’s newest observation viewpoint, offering a dazzling vantage about 1,000 feet above street level on the building’s 91st, 92nd, and 93rd floors. Not only does it feature an observation deck, but SUMMIT One Vanderbilt also has skyboxes, all-glass elevators, an entertainment space designed by Snøhetta to provide visitors with a multisensory experience, and a multidimensional art installation by Kenzo Digital called Air.
The journey to the observation deck begins inside a subterranean lobby located off Grand Central Terminal, but you escape the hustle and bustle of the transit hub as you traverse a long corridor with pulsing lights and hypnotic sound. The glass elevators—which feature another light and sound installation—shoot you up the building in a short 43 seconds.
Elevators open to a long, curvy corridor with yet another immersive light and sound experience, this one surrounding you in warm colors that change every few seconds, as well as Zen sounds that create a dream-like atmosphere. You emerge to the main attraction: a stunning bilevel space called Transcendence. Here, every structural surface—except for the massive windows—is clad in mirrors. The 360-degree views across New York are juxtaposed to the infinity room effect of the soaring, mirrored design. Some visitors lie on the floor to soak it all in.
Kenzo Digital is an artist known for creating immersive alternate worlds in physical and virtual spaces. For Air, which has been dubbed a “walk-through art experience,” he oversaw the mirrored design, the light installation (which is supposed to reflect various weather patterns), and the meditative soundscape. As the sun sets, the sound and lights change to reflect the nighttime energy of the city.
There are other amenities in this 65,000-square-foot, three-level observation spot. Levitation is a pair of glass-bottomed “skyboxes” that extend from the skyscraper 1,063 feet above Madison Avenue. The outdoor terrace has a bar and wraps around the southern and western sides of the skyscraper. The development team touts that the terrace features the “highest urban alpine meadow in the Western hemisphere,” though it consists mostly of landscaping in planter boxes propped behind seating. Three gallery spaces feature art installations, including Clouds, a Yayoi Kusama exhibit.
Thrill-seekers have the option of experiencing Ascent, in which all-glass external elevators climb an additional 12 stories up the side of the building, pause at 1,200 feet, and descend back down to the outdoor terrace. Even if you don’t make it to the very top, there’s no shortage of impressive views, whether it’s across the water to the outer boroughs, up the lush expanse of Central Park, or directly onto the penthouse level of 432 Park Avenue.
This is the most multisensory experience you can get, at one of the highest elevations possible, for a New York City observation deck. (The office tower is the city’s fourth-tallest building, with its antenna reaching 1,401 feet.) For those who have to experience it themselves, ticketing information for Summit One Vanderbilt can be found here.