Tourist traps aren’t normally something we pay much attention to, but Summit One Vanderbilt—the sky-high observatory perched atop the 93rd floor of KPF’s newly completed tower in Midtown East—takes the concept of a humdrum lookout deck to thrilling new heights. The space sits 1,063 feet above Manhattan, offers New York–inspired street food staples by restaurateur Danny Meyer, and an installation that feels like stepping into a kaleidoscope.
Two separate viewing experiences await. The Levitation sky boxes allow guests to step out from the building’s envelope onto glass platforms overlooking Madison Avenue. Upping the ante is Ascent, an all-glass elevator that transports guests from the terrace up the side of the building and into the venue’s highest observatory. Inside, James Beard Award winner Patrick Connolly’s Chicken Parm Dogs and Italian baguette sandwiches are served with craft cocktails in a Nordic-inspired lounge designed by Snøhetta.
It’s the immersive experience, essentially an infinity room in the clouds called Air, that sets Summit One Vanderbilt apart from the routine tourist attraction. Masterminded by digital artist Kenzo Digital, the retina-widening room visually dissolves the surrounding skyline into a boundless, fantastical universe. It concludes with an experience called Unity, which transforms attendees’ 3-D portraits into a cloud within an animated skyscape on Samsung wall displays. “Air is a love letter to New York, an immersive art experience that’s a living, breathing entity, expressed through its multisensory use of material choice, sound, lighting, and production design,” Digital says. “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.”