Becoming a Part of the Vanderbilt Summit

The exhibit immerses viewers in an otherworldly perspective of the city, removed from the fast-paced chaos of New York City



The exhibit reaches new heights atop the 93rd floor at SUMMIT One Vanderbilt in Midtown Manhattan.


While ascending the elevator of One Vanderbilt, my imagination ran wild pondering what the exhibit would be like. Strobe lights flashed and faded, bouncing off the fully reflective walls of the elevator cab while it effortlessly flew up 91 floors. 

SUMMIT, located in Midtown, captures a perspective of Manhattan that is unique to the installation’s design and location. After years of construction and an unfortunate delay because of the pandemic, SUMMIT is now open for visitors to immerse themselves in the city sky. 

The strobing of the elevator ride combined with harsh industrial noise created disorder in all the senses. I was expecting SUMMIT to be a thrill of heights similar to the Twilight Zone’s Tower of Terror. My curiosity slowly turned into anxiety as I thought of which ways the exhibit would stretch the limits of my fear of heights.

The elevator opened to an all-white hallway with warm, pastel shades of pink projected onto its surface. The hallway was near silent, creating a tranquil atmosphere which overtook the feelings of chaos from the elevator.

Walking through, it was as if my footsteps disturbed a serene environment, like walking on freshly tilled soil or untouched sand. I exited the hallway and immediately took in the whole breathtaking exhibit. Colors bounced and floated through the all-glass room. Multiple reflections of myself stared back at me as I looked at them. The sunset pierced through the city skyline into the building, giving the room a warm glow.

The hallway and the elevator act as a vehicle, a liminal space that takes observers from one world into another.

There was so much to immediately take in that all I could do was stand in awe. Once fully immersed in the exhibit, I realized how important the elevator and hallway are to entering the world of SUMMIT. The hallway and the elevator act as a vehicle, a liminal space that takes observers from one world into another. While suspended above the city, I felt a separation from the world I was previously in.

Though I was in the same city, the streets which I was just walking on felt as if they were in a completely different dimension. My roommates and friends just on the other side of Manhattan were worlds away from me.

Artist Kenzo Digital brought his recurring dream from the past 25 years to fruition through the reflective, otherworldly installation. Cerami, a renowned company in the field of acoustics, created the expertly designed sounds which complement the sensual experience. The sounds envelop the viewer in an all-encompassing meditative state as Kenzo intended. As the sounds changed, I felt myself respond to them. The small yet distinct chimes sent tingles through my spine. The sounds melted me into the walls and floor of the exhibit. I became a part of the space. 

summit vanderbilt view from the top
The SUMMIT Experience begins at $39 and is comparable to the Top of the Rock Observation Deck. (MADELINE KATZ)

Inside SUMMIT, time moved with the sun. I only noticed the time escaping when I saw the sunset melt into the night sky illuminated by the warmly lit skyscrapers. The movement of time created an exhibit completely different from the one I entered. The piercing rays of the sunset faded, shifting the focus to the changing colors of the floors and walls.

The audience’s interaction with the space is an integral part of the exhibit. Many had the same awe-struck gaze as myself when I entered; others went straight to taking pictures and capturing the beauty of the space. Some instinctually went to lay on the floor to get the best view. 

SUMMIT would feel empty without an audience. The movement of the walls, floors and ceiling comes from the reflections of the viewers. Each one of us becomes a part of the exhibit itself. 

I once again reentered the liminal spaces of the hallway and elevator, descending back to the Midtown streets. My perspective of the city and my place in it was different from when I entered. The people at SUMMIT could now see me moving like an ant below the illuminated buildings. I was now one of the many moving parts that make the city so special.

Location: One Vanderbilt, enter through the main concourse of Grand Central Terminal

Cost: SUMMIT Experience starts at $39. SUMMIT Ascent starts at $59. New York City residents receive a $5 discount. A sunset visit costs an additional $10.

Best time to go: sunset and evening

Is it worth it? Depends. The pricing is comparable to the Top of the Rock Observation Deck and the observatory deck at the Empire State Building but SUMMIT offers a more immersive, transformative experience.