Not for the Timid

John Hill
27. October 2021
Photo courtesy of Edge

City Climb, billed as "the highest open-air building ascent in the world," has opened on the top of 30 Hudson Yards in New York City, directly above Edge, an outdoor skydeck that cantilevers from the supertall skyscraper.

Adding a so-called "thrill experience" to the top of a tall building is nothing new. Back in 2009 in Chicago, for instance, Skidmore, Owings & Merrill added The Ledge to their Willis (formerly Sears) Tower: two cantilevered glass boxes with vertiginous views to the street more than 1,350 feet below. Not to be outdone, TILT was added to the nearby John Hancock Center (now 875 North Michigan Avenue) five years later, with portions of the south facade at the observation deck tilting a third of the way to horizontal, counter to the slope of the skyscraper's facade. Like Willis Tower, the Hancock was also designed by SOM.

Photo courtesy of Edge

Now, within the span of less than a month, two such experiences are opening in New York City. First came the Summit atop One Vanderbilt, the 1,400-foot tower located next to Grand Central Terminal. Summit opened on October 21 with a bevy of thrills: a two-story mirrored room, two sky boxes akin to Chicago's Ledge, an outdoor observation deck, and glass-bottom elevators ascending from the deck to the tower's apex. And on October 26, the operators of the Edge at 30 Hudson Yards announced the opening of City Climb will happen on November 9. Both One Vanderbilt and 30 Hudson Yards, it should be noted, were designed by KPF.

Photo courtesy of Edge

According to a press release from Edge, small groups will be led by trained guides in traversing the open-air platforms and stairs of City Climb. Following a safety briefing and donning special protective gear and equipment, the harnessed "Climbers" ascend 161 steps following the incline of the top of the skyscraper. Once at the 1,271-foot apex, they can lean out over the platform as in the below photograph. Although the visitors paying $185 are harnessed for the full 45-minute thrill experience, the lack of any obstructions at the platforms and stairs makes City Climb not for the faint of heart.

Photo courtesy of Edge

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