Living on the Edge in NYC
The city that never sleeps has a new reason to stay awake in the form of an edgy-looking eyrie for the high-flying eagles of industry called Edge. Billing itself as the Western hemisphere’s highest outdoor sky deck, New York’s newest (and most vertigo-inducing) attraction officially opened its doors to the public on March 11 but had to close them soon after due to the COVID-19 crisis. The doors are set to reopen on July 20.
Offering 360-degree views of New York City’s cinematic skyline, Edge’s outdoor viewing area features a glass floor to see the world beneath your feet, angled glass walls, and outdoor skyline steps from the 100th to 101st floors of 30 Hudson Yards. From up here, you can gawp at such city staples as the Hudson River, Central Park and the Statue of Liberty.
This cloud-scraper on the west side of Manhattan has a bar on the 100th floor for anyone who isn’t tipsy enough from the view to kick back indoors or outdoors on the sky deck. Situated one floor above Edge, on the 101st floor, is Peak, a venue that does triple duty as a restaurant, bar, and event space operated by hospitality group RHC. The interiors of both Edge and Peak were designed by the New York-based Rockwell Group.
In a nod to visual story-spinning, the Group changed the ticket queuing area on the fourth floor into, “Journey to Edge, a digitally immersive linear timeline telling the history of Hudson Yards. Five immersive zones engage the senses with floor-to-ceiling digital imagery, projection mapping, and soundscape,” as the company describes it.
Developed by Related Companies and Oxford Properties Group, Hudson Yards is the largest mixed-use private real estate venture in American history. In a city built on the adage that “size matters,” this new quasi-gated community and enclave of exorbitance is also a shrine to conspicuous consumption with more than 100 shops and restaurants, 4,000 state-of-the-art modern residences, as well as the world’s first Equinox Hotel and commercial office space.
What’s the price tag? Oh, around US$25 billion, give or take a few hundred thousand bucks. All in all, the project’s sheer hubris makes the projects of another famous real estate developer who went on to become president look humble by comparison.
Any such mega-project will inevitably attract as many plaudits as criticisms. In the latter category, the New Yorker said the shops in the seven-storey mall are generic and The New York Times mocked it as “a relic of dated 2000s thinking, nearly devoid of
urban design, it declines to blend into the city grid.” In the former category, however, Forbes said, “The physical space Hudson Yards has created is ostentatious and energizing.”
The building itself was designed by the renowned American architectural design firm Kohn Pedersen Fox Associates (KPF), which has amassed a portfolio of such towering achievements, like Lotte World Tower, Korea’s tallest building; the International Commerce Centre, which stands the tallest of all Hong Kong structures, and Tour First, which has achieved the loftiest physical status of any building in France.
How long did this project take to realize, from the conceptualization to the launch on March 11?
We started erecting the structure onsite in April 2018 and it took approximately one month to erect the main exterior structure once it arrived there. The design, detailing and fabrication, which occurred offsite, took approximately 18 months prior to that.
How did you decide on the different components of Edge? Were you inspired by any other observation decks in the world, like Thailand’s tallest tower, King Power Mahanakhon in Bangkok?
Edge is a key part of the design of 30 Hudson Yards. From the beginning of the building’s design process, Edge was always going to be a large outdoor viewing platform, seen from afar as a distinctive feature but very much part of the building. Unlike many other observation decks, Edge is cantilevered out from the building, not a terrace on top of or on a setback as part of the building. This allows visitors to be completely surrounded by sky. We added angled glass walls and a large glass floor which allow guests to look directly down to the street below. Its monumental triangular form completes 30 Hudson Yards’ architectural dialogue with New York City.
What was the deciding factor to select KPF as architect for this project?
KPF designed 30 Hudson Yards, so they were the natural choice when we began to explore adding an observation deck to the building. KPF is a leader in the design of super-tall towers with publicly accessible spaces at the top.
That is an extraordinary architectural feat to construct a triangular glass floor protruding out from the side of the building, without supports underneath. Can you tell us a bit more about how this was done?
Edge is made up of 15 primary sections, each weighing between 35,000 and 100,000 pounds. Each section was pre-assembled at the factory in Italy to ensure proper alignment and fit. Sections were then taken apart, moved to the port, and shipped across the Atlantic to New York City. Once onsite, the sections were carefully lifted, sometimes by two cranes simultaneously and then bolted precisely into place. This bolt-in-place method is similar to that used on iconic New York City skyscrapers. This was an extraordinary feat of engineering, which required an outstanding team of architects, engineers, construction workers and interior designers.
Was that the biggest architectural challenge of the project? What other challenges did the architects face designing Edge?
Building over an active railyard that transports a weekly ridership of over 350,000 people was perhaps the most challenging part of the project. Edge was always intended to be more than “a view”. From the beginning, we set out to create an immersive experience from the queue to the elevator ride to creating different kinds of thrills at the top, like enjoying a glass of champagne on the skyline steps to leaning out over the city against the angled glass ways, or stepping out on the glass floor to look down. All of them were challenging but it was worth it to create a collection of experiences that no other sky deck in the world offers.