Summit One Vanderbilt: A Mirror Miracle in Manhattan

You may have thought you have seen New York in all its charm, energy, and grandeur.  But if you haven’t been to Summit One Vanderbilt, then baby, “you ain’t seen nothin’ yet!” Located on the 91st floor of One Vanderbilt, 1,000 feet above Grand Central Terminal, the view offers a dizzying panoramic view of New York that creates a sense of awe and a feast for your eyes. As Kenzo Digital, the artist behind the exhibit said,” “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.”

Viewers find themselves enveloped in a landscape of mirrors that challenge their perceptions every step of the way. As Travel + Leisure reports, “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.” 

After riding an elevator 91 stories up, visitors are treated to the centerpiece, Transcendence 1, known as  “Air.” Air is “a work that brings innovative storytelling to the best view in New York City—taking the Summit observation deck canvas and elevating it into a transcendent and euphoric experience.” From Transcendence One, you can view the unparalleled skyline of Manhattan in all its majesty. 

Levitation Skyboxes Source: CNN

In reality, Transcendence 1 is a bit of a social experiment, an attempt to break down the artificial barriers that we tend to erect in order to separate ourselves from one another. As Kenzo puts it, “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.”

Next up is Transcendence 2, the second part of the “Air” experience, located just above Transcendence 1. Thai space functions as a direct observatory of Transcendence 1. As Kezo explains, “This is revisiting the point where the story began. 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.”

The next leg of this visually stunning journey is “Levitation,” which asks participants to “Consider your relationship to the built environment, your connection to nature, and your own reality from heights above Midtown Manhattan.” Built with transparent floors in a series of interconnected skyboxes, Levitation creates a sense of wonder and awe. Visual boundaries are stripped as you feel eerily suspended nearly a quarter of a mile above the heart of New York City, which pulses with life directly beneath your feet. In this sense, you merge with your environment and become the observation deck itself. 

“Ascent” is next, adding a sense of dynamism and motion to your experience.  “Ascent” is an all-glass elevator (are you also thinking Wonkavator?) that takes you up 1,200 feet above the Big Apple, providing “a thrilling one-of-a-kind perspective of the city from One Vanderbilt’s highest elevation.” The final stop in this kinesthetic and kaleidoscopic journey is “Après,”  Summit One Vanderbilt’s sky-high lounge and café featuring “bespoke light fare and an innovative cocktail program curated by Danny Meyer’s Union Square Events.” 


Ultimately, Summit One is about creating community via a shared, almost mystical-like experience, and providing a place for wonder to be rekindled. As Kenzo states, “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.”

You do not have to love art or really know anything about it to enjoy this experience. As Kenzo points out, “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.” As one visitor exclaimed,” While my ears were popping in the regular elevator as I headed back down 93 floors to catch my train, I had one thought: I can’t wait to go back up.”

There are however some things you can do to maximize your enjoyment of Summit One. As their website guidelines state, “All guests must wear appropriate clothing, including without limitation a shirt and footwear that will not damage mirrored floors such as stiletto heels and steel-toed boots. Guests who are concerned about unwanted exposure as a result of the mirrored floors and ceilings are responsible for dressing in a manner to avoid such exposure.” Some people may also want to avail themselves of sunglasses to minimize the glare and reflection that are inherent in the experience.

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