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All images credit of Tishman Speyer Properties All images credit of Tishman Speyer Properties
Last week, an international design team went before Community Board 5's Landmarks Committee to seek advisory approval for a variety of design alterations meant to enhance the visitor experience at the Top of the Rock observation deck at 30 Rockefeller Center.

Finished in 1933 as the RCA Building, the landmarked skyscraper is the standout building of the Rockefeller Center complex and its striking slab form radiates the might of commerce and communication. It also helped shift the center of Midtown west of Fifth Avenue.

The team commissioned by major landlord Tishman Speyer Properties includes Gabellini Sheppard Associates as the interior designers, The Hettema Group serving as experience designers, Montroy DeMarco Anderson as the executive architects, and Carlo Ratti Associates as the new observation deck designers. The project scope focuses on two areas of the building: the base where ticketing, security, and queuing takes place, and at the top which hosts a multi-level public observation area.

With the overarching goal of enhancing the visitor experience through improved circulation and the insertion of new attractions, the team hopes to propel the deck to another level and compete with a new crop of observation decks that includes The Edge at Hudson Yards, the soon-to-open SUMMIT at One Vanderbilt, and the planned observation deck at the Chrysler Building. The team will go before the Landmarks Preservation Commission this coming Tuesday, September 14, 2021. View the full presentation here (PDF).

When the deck opened in the 1930s, it was envisioned as a fantasy world where visitors would be transported to the deck of an ocean liner.

Staff dressed in naval attire, and at the center was a rotating beacon that could be seen from miles away.

The collection of enhancements relating to the public areas at the top and bottom of the building intend to speak to the history and magic of the complex.

Rockefeller Centeer observation Deck

One goal is to streamline the flow of visitors and have better way-finding to and from the observation deck.

With the departure of J. Crew, Tishman was presented with the opportunity to move ticketing up from the concourse to the ground level, in turn improving egress and allowing the venue to accommodate new volumes of people.

30 Rock's uppermost floors were always planned as a place of amusement and entertainment. The team plans three new interventions to enhance the experience.

The iconic 1932 photo "Lunch atop a Skyscraper," is a staged photo by Charles Clyde Ebbets of RCA Building steel workers enjoying their box lunches.

90 years since the photo was taken, one proposed attraction will recreate the scene by allowing visitors to buckle onto a beam and rise up into a similar backdrop.

The beam will then rotate 180 degrees so you can enjoy the unimpeded views.

When the beam is down low, it's hidden behind the parapet and the mechanicals are set into the roof deck.

On the 70th floor, a mosaic tile artwork will replace the current red tiles installed in 2005.

It will have a mythological and celestial design, a common motif found throughout the complex.

Another new intervention will be a kinetic beacon which has some precedence atop some of the city's historic high-rises.

Top-of-top-nyc-new yor city-manhattan

Scaled to be proportional to the deck, the orb will be 15 feet wide and located on the eastern side of the 70th floor deck.

Top-of-the-top-nyc-new york city manhattan- observation deck
Top-of-the-top-nyc-new york city manhattan- observation deck

It draws inspiration from the bronze statue of Atlas found within Rockefeller Center's International Building courtyard.

Top-of-the-top-nyc-new york city manhattan- observation deck

The kinetic dome will change over time, and there will be sound and light to enhance the structure.

The team says the glass used is similar to those found in lighthouses. They also emphasized that it will never be used for commercial advertising.

Top-of-the-top-nyc-new york city manhattan- observation deck rockefeller center

The most controversial aspect of the plan to the community board was a proposed viewing platform straddling existing stair/elevator bulkheads.

The team notes that the deck's original design had several levels that progressively sought to provide visitors with a slightly better view.

The new viewing platform will be approximately 36' by 136' and sit on the western half of the 70th floor.

Unused communication equipment and a defunct Doppler radar balloon will be taken down.

Visitors will access the culminating deck via stairs or a new glass elevator.

The community board panel was not convinced that the glass and metal platform complemented the existing Art Deco architecture.

The board believed the platform was too bulky and too far removed from the architectural expression of the tower.

At nearly 800 feet above street level, the observation deck changes are barely visible from street-level. This view of the tower, from Fifth Avenue, will be obliterated by a new tower by Extell Development in the coming years.

Nevertheless, the board supported the the majority of the alterations and approved the application with the condition that the design of the viewing platform will be reworked.

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