This Mirrored Room 1,000 Feet Above Grand Central Offers a Stunning Perspective of the NYC Skyline
Whether it's from atop the Empire State Building, Top of the Rock, One World Observatory, or Edge NYC, each of the observation decks in Manhattan offer a gorgeous perspective of the New York City skyline. And now, tickets are on sale for the newest aerial vantage point at Summit One Vanderbilt, opening Oct. 21.
A mesmerizing mirror room called Transcendence 1 serves as the centerpiece of "Air," a multisensory experience created by Kenzo Digital. "One of the things that makes 'Air' so novel and compelling is that we use space in a totally different way," the New York-based artist told Travel + Leisure during a preview tour last week. "We use space as a real storytelling canvas. Every time you turn a corner, the story continually evolves ... It's a fully transformative experience meant to be very primal and reconnect to your sensorial world."
The visit starts at the entrance to Summit One Vanderbilt, accessible from inside Grand Central Terminal. From there, visitors step into a sound-and-light journey that includes a 42-second ride in a light-and-mirror-infused elevator up 1,000 feet to the 91st floor of One Vanderbilt.
Next, a corner turn leads into a massive room, Transcendence 1, filled with reflective surfaces cast against sprawling windows that showcase the skyline, including the Empire State Building in the foreground.
"I wanted to make something very different," Kenzo told T+L. "The intention of this [space] is radically different from other observation decks ... I think of it very much as a Central Park in the sky. It's our way of giving back to the city. It's a very primal, sensorial nature experience that could only happen in New York, and more specifically, from this vantage, at this elevation."
Indeed, every step of the room brings a new perspective, prompting you to question the reflections versus reality of the mirrored walls, floors, and ceilings, as well as how fellow visitors fit into the picture. "It's a way to connect people authentically through curiosity and shared wonder," he added. "Everyone that's in this room ... is in this phase of curiosity and inspiration. This is a room that is disarming in so many ways, and it allows people to really lean into that curiosity."
Sitting right above the room on the 92nd floor is Transcendence 2, another space on a balcony looking down at Transcendence 1.
"This is revisiting the point where the story began," Kenzo explained. "This is the big reveal. Right below, you'll see all the people who are visiting 'Air' for the first time just like you, with all the [same] questions you were asking yourself and the disposition you were in."
These two rooms are just the first chapter of "Air," which will also include a space called Affinity, along with other soon-to-be-disclosed areas.
"Air" is an addition to the other previously announced interactive elements of Summit One Vanderbilt, including the Levitation sky boxes, with transparent floors 1,063 feet above Midtown Manhattan, and Ascent, an all-glass elevator going more than 1,200 feet high on the 1,401-foot-tall building. The 65,000-square-foot Summit One Vanderbilt, designed by Snøhetta, is also home to the Summit Terrace, an open-air wraparound space on the 93rd floor featuring an indoor and outdoor bar, plus Après, a cafe operated by Danny Meyer's Union Square Events.
General admission for the Summit Experience starts at $39 for adults (13 years and older) and $33 for children (six to 12 years old). Tickets with the Ascent elevator ride start at $59 for adults and $53 for children, and the Ultimate Summit experience, which includes a Danny Meyer signature cocktail or mocktail, starts at $73 for adults and $67 for children. Evening and sunset visits have an additional fee.
To maximize the experience, Summit One Vanderbilt suggests bringing sunglasses for the reflective spaces and comfortable shoes (stiletto heels, steel-toe boots, cleats, and other harsh soles are not allowed). The venue also recommends wearing pants or shorts — not dresses — to avoid any "unwanted exposure" from the mirrored floors.
The attraction was designed with COVID-19 precautions in place and will follow local mandates, while also being equipped with UV-C light sanitization, MERV 16 air filtration, and nine-stage volatile organic compound (VOC) HEPA filters.
Overall, the experiential attraction aims to challenge the city as we know it today. "As a New Yorker, our relationship to time is very distinct. It's a fast-moving city ... and it can be argued that there's no other place in the city where time moves faster than at Grand Central," Kenzo added. "We're still in the dead center of the city, but we're high above it. This magical space essentially [shows that] New York is a living organism. Now what we have is a permanent part of the New York skyline — this idea of aspiration, hope, and sheer curiosity — which now represents and serves as a beacon for the use of New York for generations."
While the experience was thoughtfully created with every detail in mind, Kenzo said ultimately none of that matters since it's in the hands of each individual visitor. "The fact of the matter is you don't need to know anything about art, you don't need to know anything about my intention — all you need is to want to come," he told T+L. "All I really want is for people to feel the power of the experience authentically and in a very vulnerable way, and for that to be a unique moment."