Top of the Rock “skylift” attraction gets green light from Landmarks Preservation Commission

Rock Steady

Top of the Rock “skylift” attraction gets green light from Landmarks Preservation Commission

A fluted vertical lift with a glass-encased viewing platform replaces a larger observation structure in the just-approved plans. (Tishman Speyer)

As initially reported earlier this week by 6sqft following an April 26 public meeting of the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC), a series of thrilling—or horrific, depending on your tolerance for extreme heights—enhancements have been given the go-ahead at the Top of the Rock observatory at 30 Rockefeller Plaza in Midtown Manhattan.

The LPC unanimously voted to approve the dizzying new additions, which include a cake topper-esque “skylift” ride that will slowly thrust visitors nearly 900 feet above the city streets within a circular, glass-enclosed platform rising from the historic Art Deco skyscraper’s 70th floor. Also proposed for the 70th floor will be a globular “rooftop beacon” that will be programmed to change as visitors come and go as well as new tiles sporting an elaborate celestial motif that will replace the current red tiles.

For those with wobbly legs, also approved by the LPC is a seated attraction in which visitors will be strapped into a rotating “beam” that’s then raised and rotated 180-degrees above a terrace on the 69th floor. As envisioned by Tishman Speyer, the planned experience pays direct homage to Lunch Atop a Skyscraper, an iconic, acrophobia-triggering (staged) 1932 photograph depicting 11 ironworkers sitting and eating on a crossbeam during the building’s construction.

a seated lift attraction at an observation deck
No word if a brown bag lunch is included … (Tishman Speyer)
rendering of people looking out at the nyc skyline from a seated ride
(Tishman Speyer)

Tishman Speyer’s plans also include a full refresh of the Top of the Rock ticketing entrance located in the historic high-rise’s ground-floor and mezzanine; it will be fully relocated from the building’s main lobby (also being renovated) to a series of adjacent storefronts along 50th Street.

The vertiginous new upgrades at Top of the Rock will help the tourist-drawing observatory better compete with the high-altitude attractions found at newer, higher, and shinier observation decks, including Edge at 30 Hudson Yards and Summit One Vanderbilt, as well as the recently revamped sky-high draws at the Empire State Building, including a new glass elevator ride from the reimagined 86th floor main observatory all the up to a rooftop deck on the 102nd floor.

Although Top of the Rock has only had its current name since 2005 following a significant renovation led by Gabellini Sheppard Associates, the observatory is an original feature of 30 Rockefeller Plaza, opening along with the rest of the Raymond Hood–designed skyscraper (then the RCA Building) in 1933. Serving as the cloud-brushing centerpiece of Rockefeller Center, the pop-culture famous building—officially the Comcast Building since 2015—is currently the 32nd-tallest in New York City.

rendering of a 70th floor observation deck
Up, up … (Tishman Speyer)
rendering of a fluted observation platform above the manhattan skyline
…and away. (Tishman Speyer)

As noted by 6sqft, Tishman Speyer’s proposals have gone through several revisions prior to this week’s blessing by the LPC. Initial plans envisioned a hulking viewing platform rising from the 70th floor. It was ultimately nixed and replaced with the fluted vertical skylift attraction that will remain hidden away out of sight when not in active use.

“I think what is being composed here now is exciting,” 6sqft reported Commissioner Frederick Bland as saying in support of the vertical lift element during Tuesday’s meeting. “It’s there when it’s there, and it’s not there when it’s not there, which introduces a level of kinetic quality to architecture which I’ve always been interested in.”

An opening date for the new and improved observation experience at 30 Rockefeller Plaza has not been announced. Currently, general admission to Top of the Rock costs between $30 and $40; it’s safe to assume that access to the new planned attractions will come at a premium.