Within One Vanderbilt, Snøhetta realizes SUMMIT, an immersive attraction

SUMMIT One Vanderbilt by Snøhetta, located atop a new KPF-designed office tower next to Grand Central Terminal in Midtown Manhattan, offers an array of attractions beyond “just” a panoramic view. The four-story complex hosts four experiences: Airan artistic experience created by the artist Kenzo Digital; Levitation, two glass cornices over Madison Avenue (also designed by KPF); Ascent, a pair of exterior glass elevators; and After, a restaurant concept with an outdoor terrace.

Everywhere, glass plays an essential role both by opening a transparent portal onto the city and, at times, by reflecting an interior in an infinite regression of reflections. Anne-Rachel Schiffmann, director and senior architect at Snøhetta, said A that “glass and mirrors [are] elements that shape the visitor’s perception of interior spaces” while maintaining visual connections, forming railings and railings, and framing the overall perimeter of the tower. “In short,” she said, “glass makes SUMMIT One Vanderbilt possible.”

The journey to SUMMIT begins underground before dropping spectators atop a skyscraper. Kenzo Digital shared that “the elevator ride, both visually and audibly, serves as a palate cleanser and transition from Grand Central.” This movement allows “visitors to rise out of the hustle and bustle of trains and the city to the lofty and quiet transcendence of Airwhich restores and reinvents visitors’ connection with the city and the natural world.

In Air, viewers experience infinity reflected through floors, ceilings, column coverings and circular openings. (Michael Grimm Photography)

The first room of Air is tall, double-height and fully mirrored. You’ve probably seen images of space via social media. Reflective surfaces bend, destabilizing the perception of floor, wall and ceiling. Materially, it seems effortless, but the effect required the work of a dedicated project team. Kenzo said that once the concept was in place, “everything from how the sun’s heat would be handled to reflective edge detailing and where to hide sprinklers and speakers in the ceiling had to be carefully considered with this vision in mind.” Snøhetta documented this coordination. Schiffmann said the company “put a lot of care and attention into the design of the speaker fixtures and covers, mirrored floor grilles for the HVAC and service access panels and mirrored spaces maintenance so those necessary details don’t feel like background noise as you step into the line of horizon.

Sound design was also important. It “establishes — emotionally and psychologically — that visitors have entered another realm,” Kenzo said. Additionally, the lighting design has two distinct settings: day and night. To pull this all off, Schiffmann explained, “bringing together an integrated, multidisciplinary team of designers, architects, landscape architects, technicians, artists, retail and food and beverage consultants , glass makers, and builders was needed to achieve a seamless experience. ”

exterior of a Manhattan glass skyscraper
SUMMIT’s four floors, including its color-coded bathrooms, can be read from the exterior of One Vanderbilt. (Michael Grimm Photography)

Next galleries in Air showcase the art of others (including Clouds, by Yayoi Kusama) before directing guests to a gift shop and dropping them off at the upper-level restaurant. Even there (and in the colorful washrooms), Snøhetta took a careful, integrated approach to lighting and materials. With the lounge’s wooden seating, the experience is meant to be totaling, like the galleries, but instead “you’re led into something cozy and warm rather than a somewhat existential mirrored infinite space,” Schiffmann said. . “Here, we imagine ourselves at the top of a mountain, curled up around a chimney, contemplating the view.”

As daily life slowly returns after the pandemic recedes, the excitement of SUMMIT is timely and welcome. New York, seen from the 93rd floor, is a masterpiece, and AirThe immersive experience blurs the distance between the viewer and the city. Through the power of glass, the piece brings the metropolis inside while giving us the chance to see the skyline – and ourselves – in a new light.

Interior designer/archive designer/landscape designer: Snøhetta
Location: New York City

Base Building Architect: KPF (Kohn Pedersen Fox)
Construction: AECOM Tishman
Collaborating artist/designer: Kenzo Digital
Immersive MEP, FP, AV/IT: JB&B (Jaros, Baum & Bolles)
structural engineer: Severud Associates
Lighting designer: Arup
Glass engineer: Eckersley O’Callaghan
Acoustic consultant: Ceramic & Associates
Specialized technology and integration: Tad., Immersive Design Studios
Signage & wayfinding: Sub Rosa Syndicate, Pentacle
Glass manufacturer: Glassbe
Mirrors: Mistral

Catherine Chattergoon is a BArch student at the Pratt Institute School of Architecture. In 2021-2022, she was one of three New voices in architectural journalism comrades. The program was sponsored by Pratt and A.

Keith P. Plain