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NYC’s latest architectural thriller lets you walk on glass, 1,100 feet in the air

Hudson Yards is in the news again, thanks to a new sky-high addition.

On March 11, a new, infinitely Instagrammable attraction will open its doors to New York residents and tourists. Edge at Hudson Yards is an observation deck that cantilevers 80 feet out from the 100th floor of the Manhattan development’s main retail tower (30 Hudson Yards) and hovers 1,131 feet above the city streets below. According to its architects, Edge is the highest outdoor observation deck in the western hemisphere, and the fifth highest one in the world.

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The 360-degree views are incredible, as is to be expected from a luxury skyscraper overlooking the Hudson River. But this experience is not for those afraid of heights. Walk out onto the Edge, which is framed by angled glass walls so clear they’re nearly invisible, and reality sets in. You are suspended in midair, 100 stories above the ground, which is easily seen through a single patch of glass floor beneath your feet.

[Photo: courtesy Related-Oxford]

The Edge is hardly the only architectural thriller in the United States. Several wild designs have popped up on skyscrapers in recent years, from a glass elevator in Chicago to a glass slide in L.A. Each seems custom-designed to make architecture as gut-sinking as a roller coaster. (Whether they are “essential” to the urban landscape is another conversation.)

“We [wanted this sub deck] to be something that you could see in the skyline and would actually be an attractor [for tourists],” says Marianne Kwok, director at KPF, the firm that designed 30 Hudson Yards (including Edge). “As great as I think the observation decks are around the city, they are a part of the building, and you’re standing on top. Here, we wanted the experience to really be dramatic.” So they decided to create an observation deck that juts out over the side of the building.

Initially, developers thought the observation deck could be a terrace, or perhaps an offshoot of one of the other floors. But the Edge is a design element unto itself—made up of 15 individual sections, linked and anchored to the building’s east and south exterior walls—creating an angular silhouette off of the preexisting tower. It’s as if 30 Hudson Yards is a tree that has sprouted a 7,500-square-foot branch.

[Photo: courtesy Related-Oxford]

It’s also a feat of engineering. At 765,000 pounds, the deck’s stone floor can support roughly 800 visitors at once. The designers had to take natural elements—like wind uplift—into account when considering how to engineer the walls and deck that would hold people safely in the air. Guests can view the city from the Edge’s south side, and the cantilever configuration allows people to look north as well.

[Photo: courtesy Related-Oxford]
The broader Hudson Yards development has been endlessly criticized for its $25 billion price tag and shameless attempt to cater to the city’s ultra rich. The Edge fits squarely in this tradition, equal parts tourist-trap and Instagram-post worthy. “When we designed the guard rail, we really wanted to have no metal, so we have as little metal as possible,” Kwok says. “All of those glass pieces are slightly held apart so there’s enough space for a mobile phone camera to take a clear view . . . just enough so someone could put a camera through those cracks of glass.” The photo-friendly glass walls are 9 feet tall, and angled slightly for the daredevil who’d like to lean against them. Adds Kwok: “We also wanted the glass to be as clear as possible so in the skyline at a distance, there’s this idea that you would see people floating on this platform because you don’t really see the glass at all.”

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The Edge is open every day, year-round, from 8 a.m. to midnight. Tickets are now on sale through the Edge deck’s website. They are $36 for adults, $31 for kids, and $34 for seniors and New York residents.

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