Sunrise from the SUMMIT

John Hill
19. August 2022
All photographs by John Hill/World-Architects

The above photo, which shows a reflection of the sunrise next to a view of some of the Billionaire's Row supertall towers near Central Park, subtly hints at the way mirrored surfaces prevail at SUMMIT One Vanderbilt, affecting how visitors take in the panoramic views of New York and New Jersey. Kenzo Digital's Air — a two-story hall of mirrors that opened to great fanfare last October — anchors the multiple experiences at SUMMIT One Vanderbilt, which also comprise glass ledges that cantilever from the skyscraper's facade, a cafe and outdoor terrace, and glass elevators that climb another 120 feet up the outside of the tower. 

Below is a slideshow of our World Photography Day visit to SUMMIT One Vanderbilt and our "immersion" in Air.

First some context: Located on 42nd Street next to Grand Central Terminal, One Vanderbilt was designed by KPF and, at 1,401 feet to the tip of its spire, is currently the tallest skyscraper in Midtown Manhattan. SUMMIT One Vanderbilt, designed by Snøhetta, is located on floors 91 to 93 of One Vanderbilt, standing out from the floors above and below through its clear glass and colored surfaces.
Doors opened at 5:15am — nearly four hours before the usual start time at SUMMIT One Vanderbilt — with sunrise taking place at 6:10am. Here is a pre-sunrise view of the Chrysler Building and Long Island beyond.
Clear skies made for a dramatic sunrise, with the horizon punctuated by the few other Manhattan towers as tall as One Vanderbilt; at left is 432 Park Avenue by Rafael Viñoly Architects.
Panning left, another view of 432 Park Avenue and the cluster of supertall towers visible in the top photo.
Roughly a couple of hundred photographers and influencers attended the early-morning event held at SUMMIT One Vanderbilt in partnership with B&H Photo and Fotografiska.
Some of the best views to be had were not of the sun itself, but of the rising sun casting its orange hue over Manhattan buildings... well as hazy views below the sun — here looking toward Cornell Tech on Roosevelt Island, the Queensboro Bridge, and the borough of Queens beyond.
Another view of the Chrysler Building, which will be blocked by SOM's 175 Park Avenue — a 1,600-foot tower also next to Grand Central Terminal — when it is built.

Air by Kenzo Digital

Visitors to SUMMIT One Vanderbilt take an express elevator from the basement to the 91st floor — the ride is a "palette cleanser" according to the Brooklyn artist — and then, after a bright white corridor, immerse themselves into Kenzo Digital's Air.
Air is spread across two floors, with a double-height space on the north side of the tower.
A pair of round openings between the floors with more mirrored surfaces are especially fun to photograph — and to try to wrap your head around.
Like many immersive environments, Air focuses attention on itself and the people immersing themselves within it (it's hard in the Instagram-ready environment not to take a photo of yourself taking a photo)...
...but it also works as a frame for taking in views of iconic buildings within the New York skyline. (Photo: John Hill/World-Architects)
Finally, akin to the photo at top, mirrored surfaces at the exterior wall result in many surprises, as in this view of towers by AS+GG, Jean Nouvel, and SHoP Architects accompanied by a reflected view of the Empire State Building.

Other articles in this category