Summit One Vanderbilt is one of the newest, most exciting attractions in New York. It’s an immersive, multi-sensory, 65,000-square-foot observation deck experience, where experiential technology adds a new dimension to New York’s stunning cityscapes. The observation deck experience sits 91 stories above Madison Ave. in one of New York’s most impressive, “supertall” skyscrapers. Summit One Vanderbilt covers 26 unique spaces, spanning four levels. It brings together dramatic audio and lighting effects, mixed with video and highly personalized interactivity created by leading experiential designer Kenzo Digital.
The highlights of Summit One Vanderbilt are numerous: the Hall of Light, a choreographed audio and light installation; one of the world’s largest infinity rooms, where a 3D soundscape creates a different experience in every part of the space; an amazing light show built into architectural columns that complements the nighttime cityscape; and a massive, 50-foot interactive videowall on which visitors can view their own image in a bank of clouds. And, of course, there’s also the view!
To deliver this installation, Electrosonic worked in partnership with owner SL Green, Kenzo Digital, audiovisual designer JB&B and technology advisor Tad. Electrosonic was responsible for engineering, procuring, installing, commissioning and programming hundreds of audiovisual components that composed the technical backbone of this attraction.
Delivering a project like Summit One Vanderbilt required many highly specialized skill sets. Electrosonic possesses those skills, and it has a proven track record in similar projects. The company’s deep technical experience with designing solutions for complex, large-scale, digital-activation projects brought this observation deck experience to life.
Starting With a Clear Vision
Robert Schiffer, managing director of SL Green, had a clear vision for the project. He says, “Almost all observation decks around the world are just about the view; they’re a way to see the city. We wanted to create an observation experience, pulling in immersive experiences. So, we built this canvas and then turned it over to digital artists. We wanted to bring the city inside and then create ways of seeing the city that you’ve never seen before.”
Delivering on SL Green’s vision for Summit One Vanderbilt required very specific coordination between many partners, including architect Snohetta, Kenzo Digital, JB&B, Tad, lighting integrator Barbizon, general contractor AECOM Tishman and, of course, Electrosonic.
Electrosonic was selected as the audiovisual partner and integrator because it is recognized as a go-to audiovisual and technology partner for large, complex, experiential projects. It also has almost 60 years’ relevant experience delivering immersive solutions for observation decks. Here, it worked on the world’s premier observation deck experiences. Some of these include Chicago’s Skydeck at Willis Tower, One World Observatory in New York, Vue Orleans and others. Electrosonic’s varied experience enabled it to bring all the relevant credentials and capabilities to help the client and project partners think outside the box, thus designing and building a unique experience for Summit One Vanderbilt..
After providing the key stakeholders with inspiration for the space prior to concept, Electrosonic influenced the design by providing audiovisual advice and expertise to help achieve the desired final result.
Let’s offer an inside look at Summit One Vanderbilt: Visitors first enter a 180-degree theater that sets the tone for the experience; then, they join a queue where they are entertained and informed by digital signage. Visitors can use custom 3D facial scanners to capture their faces; later on, they’re used in a highly interactive experience.
Next is the Hall of Light, a choreographed, synchronized, dramatic audio and light installation in a tunnel that leads to the elevators. The Hall of Light captivates visitors, setting the tone for the rest of the experience. Inside the elevator, special lighting effects and mirrors energize visitors as they climb to the top.
After exiting the elevators on the 91st floor, visitors reach the Transcendence space. This is an epic, story-driven, multi-sensory immersive experience that Kenzo Digital designed. It’s filled with infinity mirrors from floor to ceiling. Carefully placed directional audio sets the tone for what visitors are about to experience. At night, architectural columns come to life with an amazing light show that is achieved with integrated lighting and two-way mirrors.
Transcendence is one of the largest infinity rooms in the world. It’s frankly an overwhelming experience, especially when visitors can pair the views with the sound and the lights at night. The sound design contributes to the experience of the space. It’s a 3D soundscape and, because of that, every part of the room is a different experience. From there, visitors move to an interactive space where they can connect to hundreds of reflective orbs hovering around them.
On the 92nd floor, visitors make their way to Unity. There, they can scan their wristbands and see the image of their face (which they scanned earlier) visualized in the clouds on a 50-foot-long, floor-to-ceiling videowall. It creates a one-of-a-kind experience during which visitors feel they are one with the clouds. There’s simply nothing like it.
Detailed Planning, Close Coordination
Putting together a massive project like Summit One Vanderbilt, as well as delivering it on time, necessitated detailed planning and coordination. The project had to be completed within a small window leading up to opening day on October 21, 2021. For Electrosonic’s scope, that meant one year. The company had to collaborate with more than 30 trades, manage an often-changing schedule and continue to support the on-the-fly designing that was happening. Another consideration, of course, was the COVID-19 pandemic and its associated dilemmas.
Logistics were a major challenge. Observation decks like Summit One Vanderbilt sit more than 90 floors up on top of skyscrapers, and they involve unique spaces like elevators. It’s not as simple as installing interactive screens and other audiovisual equipment. It took in-depth planning and maneuvering just to get the logistics right. Thankfully, Electrosonic has extensive experience working in the busy center of New York.
As noted, this project required high levels of collaboration. Although everyone was working toward a single vision, delivering the final result meant continual coordination among trades. It also meant dealing with the interdependencies of hundreds of components. However, Electrosonic’s ability to lead with Technology Master Planning and infrastructural technology design supported the audio, video and control systems that, taken together, created a truly immersive experience.
Electrosonic was responsible for engineering, programming, building, installing, commissioning and testing all the technology systems at Summit One Vanderbilt, including the audio systems, LED displays, audiovisual and lighting control systems, and experiential technologies that run the show. When the system integration phase was complete, the team handed over the site to Electrosonic’s onsite support team. That group maintains all audiovisual systems via the Affinity managed onsite support package. Thus, it ensures that the experience continues to run smoothly well into the future.
Truly World Class
Summit One Vanderbilt is already recognized as a world-class attraction, joining other immersive experiences around the world that Electrosonic supports. The observation deck will play an important role in the resurgence of New York and midtown Manhattan, as it welcomes back residents and visitors from around the world to experience something truly magical.
Marc Holliday, chairman and CEO, SL Green, adds, “We set out to create a truly unique destination for New Yorkers and visitors from around the world to explore, and Summit One Vanderbilt delivers. You need to experience it to understand it.”
- Crestron AV receiver, control system, video input wall plates
- LG displays
- Meyer speakers
- Planar displays, videowalls
- QSC audio processing system
- Samsung videowall
- Shure wireless microphones
To view additional photos of the Summit One Vanderbilt, click on “View Slideshow” on upper-right corner.