515 Years of NYC in 47 Seconds

John Hill
22. April 2015
Photo: Screenshot

When it opens next month, visitors to the observatory of One World Trade Center will be treated to a time-lapse video of Lower Manhattan's evolution lining the elevator walls as they ascend 102 floors.

The film is displayed on nine high-definition monitors on three sides of the elevator cab, starting within the bedrock Manhattan is built upon. It then rises through a marsh with distant views of an island that changes from a natural landscape to one occupied by a few buildings, followed by an explosion of building starting in the 18th century. The tip of Manhattan then grows up and out, defining the skyline and eating up parts of the Hudson through landfill from those same buildings. Change is slow across much of the mid-20th century, until one of the Twin Towers appears, only to disappear four seconds later, a blip in the 500-year voyage. The last seconds before arriving at the observatory see One World Trade Center, designed by Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, take shape in front of the screen, blocking out the view that will be replaced by the one on the other side of the elevator's doors.

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