Rock On pix
Gabellini Sheppard Associates brings disco deco to the Top of the Rock in New York
Lily Kalmar -- Interior Design, 1/1/2006 12:00:00 AM
Raymond Hood's cast-aluminum finials ring an observation deck at the Top of the Rock, a New York tourist attraction by Gabellini Sheppard Associates. The firm used old molds to cast new binocular viewers in stainless steel. Photography: Peter Murdock.
In the three-level atrium adjacent to 30 Rockefeller Center's subterranean concourse, a crystal chandelier hangs from a mirrored ceiling disc. Photography: Peter Murdock.
An event space, once the office of boxing promoter Don King; photography: Peter Murdock.
The 67th-floor observation deck, tiled in terra-cotta; photography: Peter Murdock.
Escalators connecting the 67th and 69th floors; photography: Paul Warchol. The 67th-floor observation deck, tiled in terra-cotta; photography: Peter Murdock.
The Top of the Rock's neighbors to the northeast include Johnson/Burgee Architects's AT&T Building, now Sony Plaza.
Photography: Paul Warchol.
Bob Weis Design Island Associates's mezzanine Beam Walk, where visitors can be photographed as if balancing on a girder during Rockefeller Center's construction; photography: Paul Warchol.
The southern view features Shreve, Lamb & Harmon Associates's Empire State Building, now the city's tallest structure—for the second time. Photography: Paul Warchol.
The fluorescent lights that put the shine on the Top of the Rock every night; photography: Peter Murdock.
PROJECT TEAM: DANIEL GARBOWIT; BLANDINE SEGUIN; SYLVIE BLONDEAU; KAREN AHAMAD; KEVIN DAVIS; NEIL EPSTEIN; SANDRA FAY; LAURIN GOFF; KENTARO ISHIHARA; MATTEO MINCHILLI; MASAKI MORINOBU; JUNG-IL OH; JONATHAN YANG; JONGKU YEE. CUSTOM VIEWERS (OBSERVATION DECKS): HI-SPY VIEWING MACHINES. CUSTOM GUARD PANELS: WW GLASS. CUSTOM HANDRAIL (ENTRY): ARCHITECTURAL METAL GROUP. CHANDELIER INSTALLATION (ENTRY), WALL INSTALLATION (67TH FLOOR): NAGEL HAMMERS STUDIOS. PLASTERWORK (ENTRY, 67TH FLOOR): PLASTRGLAS. COVE LIGHTING (ENTRY, EVENT SPACE): MANHATTAN NEON SIGN CORP. FLOORING (ENTRY, 67TH FLOOR, EVENT SPACE): PORT MORRIS TILE MARBLE CORPORATION. CEILING FIXTURES (EVENT SPACE): LITELAB. GLASS PANELS (ESCALATOR ATRIUM): COORDINATED METALS. ESCALATORS: SCHINDLER ELEVATOR CORPORATION. MILLWORK: PATELLA CONSTRUCTION CORP. CARPENTRY: JACOBSON COMPANY. PAINTING CONTRACTOR: PARAMOUNT PAINTING COMPANY. PAINT: BENJAMIN MOORE CO. CONSULTANTS: WILLIAM ARMSTRONG LIGHTING DESIGN (LIGHTING); CONTINENTAL STONE CONSULTING ENGINEERING SERVICES (STONE); HIGGINS QUASEBARTH (LANDMARKS); JEROME S. GILLMAN ASSOCIATES (CODE); BRUCE LAVAL (OPERATIONS); EDGETT WILLIAMS CONSULTING GROUP (VERTICAL TRANSPORT). STRUCTURAL ENGINEER: ADG. MEP: EDWARDS ZUCK. ARCHITECT OF RECORD: SLCE ARCHITECTS. GENERAL CONTRACTOR: STRUCTURE TONE ORGANIZATION.
|Rockefeller Center has never been surpassed. Imitators of the design—from San Francisco's Embarcadero Center to Tokyo's Roppongi Hills—have merely called attention to the brilliant marriage of architecture and art. Of course, there have been stumbles in the center's seven-decade history. One misstep was to close the observatory at 30 Rockefeller Plaza in 1986 to expand the Rainbow Room.
When Tishman Speyer, which now co-owns Rockefeller Center with the Crown family of Chicago, decided to reopen the observatory as the Top of the Rock, the company was determined to maintain the high quality that John D. Rockefeller, Jr., had always insisted on. Even if that involved buying out several retail and office leases to make room for an entry and exhibition space at the base of the building; relocating broadcast equipment on the roof; and hoisting two escalators and tons of materials to the 67th through 70th floors without inconveniencing other tenants, which include NBC.
In choosing Michael Gabellini and Kimberly Sheppard for the project, which reportedly cost $75 million, the owners got a team known for its restraint, as evidenced in fashion boutiques for Nicole Farhi, Salvatore Ferragamo, and Jil Sander. Gabellini Sheppard Associates proposed visually tying the entry areas below to the observation decks above, making both spaces seem like they had been at 30 Rock forever.
An echo of the flooring of Rock Center's famous subterranean shopping concourse, right next door, black terrazzo introduces the new attraction's ticketing and reception hall. A stairway winds around the three-level space, seemingly suspended from walls as thin as paper—an effect that GS accomplished by hiding the stair's narrow support beams in shadow and backlighting the edges of the wall panels.
By "hanging" the stairway from walls that appear themselves to float, GS seems to defy gravity, an appropriate prelude to the trip skyward. The terrazzo of the stair treads contributes to the effect by getting slightly lighter every three steps up. "The idea is to heighten reality just a little," Gabellini says. This architectural sleight of hand commands attention in part because commercial signage is entirely absent; even directional signs are the type you'd expect in a 'boutique, not a destination for two million tourists a year.
Cascading 35 feet through the center of the helical stair is a chandelier designed by GS and composed of 14,000 Swarovski crystals hung from virtually invisible steel wires. The crystals' placement is anything but random: As Gabellini explains it, they form a pixellated image of 30 Rock upside down.
The stair eventually ascends to an exhibition space devoted to the history of Rockefeller Center. Historical promotional films for the complex run in an elliptical theater that, in plan, is a perfect counterpoint to the entry's stair. Disappointingly, the theater experience ends with a pair of utilitarian exit doors, from which visitors are escorted across a hall to a narrow elevator lobby. But then the real drama begins. The elevator cars' acrylic ceilings provide thrilling views through illuminated shafts during the ascent. Finally, the doors open at the 67th floor—for what may well be the best view in Manhattan.
The most important GS innovation was to avoid any kind of fence, instead cantilevering 8 1/2-foot-high glass panels from the observation decks, without hardware or frames. Capable of resisting 100-mile-per-hour winds, the tempered laminated glass feels substantial enough to stave off vertigo but doesn't dim the effect of a single twinkling light at night. On a clear day, the view from the Top of the Rock is said to stretch for 80 miles. Of course, good views need a foreground as well as a background, and the glass makes it possible to focus on Raymond Hood's cast-aluminum parapet, too. The transparency, Sheppard says, "highlights the infinity and tranquillity."
Additional observation decks run along three sides of the 69th floor, and a reconditioned original stairway continues one level higher, to a dazzling perch where the glass panels are unnecessary because of deep setbacks. If it's hard to figure out what Gabellini and Sheppard's work entailed up here, that's how they wanted it.
By design, the entire Top of the Rock experience is surprisingly unmediated—with the possible exception of Swarovski's promotional presence in the entry's chandelier and again on 67, where visitors are certain to notice the crystals behind the faceted tinted glass wrapping the elevator core. Even with this installation, though, one could ' argue that it offers the conceit that the Rock really is a rock. Besides, the panels bear a curious resemblance to such Rockefeller Center classics as Isamu Noguchi's bas-relief News. Suddenly, the cubist forms of the complex's ornamentation and the natural forms of crystal seem inextricably linked.
And that is Gabellini and Sheppard's great achievement: Top of the Rock invites us to take another look not only from Rockefeller Center but also at it.