Projects   Interiors - Quarterly - June 2006
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Top of the Rock
at 30 Rockefeller Center

New York City
Gabellini Sheppard Associates

Gabellini Sheppard Associates creates an elegant route ascending to the Top of the Rock

Photo © Paul Warchol

By Leanne French

When it debuted in the midst of the Great Depression, the observation deck of 30 Rockefeller Center in New York City was a symbol of modern American progress, the pinnacle of developer John D. Rockefeller Jr.’s inspired urban complex that wed art, architecture, and commerce. Evoking an Art Deco luxury liner, the observatory was outfitted with lawn chairs, umbrellas, and gooseneck fixtures to welcome fashionable visitors who gathered to admire each other and the cityscape below. The original grandeur was sadly lost when the viewing platforms were closed in 1986 for the renovation of the Rainbow Room. Now, after a $75 million renovation and expansion by architect Gabellini Sheppard Associates, the renamed Top of the Rock is a reinvented destination for a new generation of visitors.

Commissioned by Rockefeller Center co-owners Tishman Speyer Properties, the project went beyond renovating the existing viewing decks to create new entry and exhibition spaces within a three-level area at the base of the building, replacing streetfront retail tenants. The challenges were to carve a memorable experience out of an unwieldy space and to visually connect the entry with the spectacular outlook perched 70 floors above.

The new entrance features a three-level atrium with a helical spiral stairway that introduces the idea of ascent. Suspended, overlapping plaster walls soar upward along the stair’s profile and appear to float, backlit by recessed lighting. Terrazzo stair treads that progress in gradations from dark to light also subtly express the journey from the ground to the sky.

The centerpiece of the lobby is a cascading crystal chandelier, designed by the architects in collaboration with Swarovski, one of the project’s corporate sponsors. The sculptural piece comprises 600 strands of 15,000 prismatic crystals, based on an Art Deco form created by Swarovski in the 1930s.

The staircase leads visitors to a mezzanine exhibition level. The elliptically shaped space, designed in collaboration with Bob Weis Design Island Associates, encourages visitors to stroll past graphic and text panels, archival images, and video screens that illustrate the history of Rockefeller Center. A cocoon-shaped theater is the last stop on the mezzanine before one takes a dramatic elevator ride up to the Top of the Rock.

All is prelude to arrival on the upper-level observation decks on floors 67 through 70, where the interior architecture steps back and allows the panorama to take the lead. Rather than fencing or railings, the decks’ safety enclosures are cantilevered, 8.5-foot-tall glass panels designed to be unobtrusive to the landmark Indiana limestone and cast-aluminum parapet. The double layers of laminated, UV-shielding glass serve as a wind barrier while offering virtually unhindered viewing.

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the People

Tishman Speyer Properties (majority owner)

Gabellini Sheppard Associates, LLP
665 Broadway Suite 706
New York, NY 10012
Tel: 212.388.1700
Fax: 212.388.1808

Design Partners:
Michael Gabellini, FAIA & Kimberly Sheppard, AIA

Managing Partner:
Daniel Garbowit, AIA

Project Manager:
Blandine Seguin, DPLG

Project Team:
Sylvie Blondeau, Karen Ahamad, Neil Epstein, Sandra Fay, Laurin Goff, Kentaro Ishihara, Matteo Minchilli, Masaki Morinobu, Jung-Il Oh, Gideon Shapiro, Jonathan Yang, Jongku Yee

Architect of record
Gabellini Sheppard Associates, LLP, design/fit-out architect

SLCE Architects, infrastructural architect
841 Broadway 7th Floor
New York, NY 10003

Interior designer
Gabellini Sheppard Associates, LLP

744 Broad Street, Suite 1924
Newark, NJ 07102
Tel (NY): 212.288.7120

Edwards and Zuck, PC
315 Park Avenue South
17th Floor
New York, NY 10010

William Armstrong Lighting Design
30 West 105th Street #2
New York 10025

Cerami & Associates, Inc.
404 Fifth Avenue, 8th Floor
New York, NY 10018
Tel: 212 370-1776

Exterior Wall & Roofing Consultants:
Israel Berger & Associates, Inc.
232 Madison Avenue
New York, NY 10016
Main: 212 689-5389

Code Consultants:
Jerome S. Gillman Associates
40 Worth Street, Suite 1630
New York, New York 10013
Main: 212 349-9304

Vertical Transportation Consultants:
Edgett & Williams Consulting Group, Inc.
102 East Blithedale Ave., Suite 1
Mill Valley, CA 94941
Tel: 415 388-1880

Joseph Neto & Associates, Inc.
1065 Avenue of the Americas
New York, NY 10018
Direct: 516 755-3570

Stone Consultant:
Continental Stone Consulting & Engineering Services
1361 Lincoln Avenue, Suite 2
Holbrook, NY 11741
Tel: 631 285-7265

Exhibit Design Consultant:
Bob Weis Design Island Associates, Inc
1517 Railroad Street
Glendale, CA 91204
Tel: 407-240-0779 / 818 956-8047

Exhibit Design Graphics Consultant:
Hunt Design
25 North Mentor Avenue
Pasadena, CA 91106-1709
Tel: 626 793-7847

Exhibit Design A/V Consultant:
1515 Railroad Street
Glendale, CA 91204
Tel: 818 662-9120

Operations Planning Consultant (Visitor Timed-Ticketing System, Logistics):
Bruce Laval
Tel: 828 526-2806 / 407 876-3529
6412 Cartmel Lane
Windermere, FL 34786

Landmarks Consultant:
Higgins & Quasebarth
270 Lafayette Street
New York, New York 10012
Tel: 212 274-9468

General contractor
Structure Tone, Inc.

Paul Warchol Photography, 212.431.3461

CAD system, project management, or other software used
Vectorworks; Form-Z; AutoCad

the Products

Exterior Cladding
Observation Deck Exterior Glass Viewing/Guard Panels:
Two-layer, laminated, optical, low-iron, tempered glass panels
W&W Glass Systems, Inc.
300 Airport Executive Park, Suite 302,
Nanuet, New York 10954-7403

Coordinated Metals, Inc (CMI)
626 Sixteenth Street
Carlstadt, NJ 07072
Tel (NY): 212.594.6574

Metal doors:
Revolving Doors
Crane Revolving Door Company
924 Sherwood Drive
Lake Bluff, Illinois 60044
Tel: 847-295-2700

Interior finishes
Cabinetwork and custom woodwork:
Patella Construction Corp.
Tel: 201.386.9999
(800) 307-3200
148 1st St
Jersey City, NJ 07302

Paints and stains:
Benjamin Moore Satin White, other colors

Wallcoverings - Plaster:
Paramount Painting Company
50 Rockefeller Plaza
New York, NY 10020
Tel: 212.632.5244

Jacobson and Company, Inc
1079 East Grand Street, PO Box 511
Elizabeth, NY 07207-0511

Special surfacing:
Fiberglass-Reinforced Gypsum (FRG)
Plastrglas, Inc.
P.O. Box 11038
4200 North 30th Street
Omaha, Nebraska 68111
Tel: 402.455.0652

Terrazzo Flooring:
Gradating Terrazzo flooring (Atrium/Concourse/Street Level & 67th Floor):
Port Morris Tile and Marble Corporation
1285 Oakpoint Avenue
Bronx, New York 10474
Phone: 718-378-6100

Raised flooring:
Mezzanine floor consultant
Raised Computer Floors, Inc
280 North Midland Ave, Bldg V
Saddle Brook, NJ 07663
Tel: 201.703.8150

Resilient flooring:
Mezzanine Raised Vinyl Flooring Fabricator
Pyramid Floor Covering, Inc
62 West 39th Street, Suite 1101
New York, NY 10018
Tel: 212.869.7599 x 11

Interior Stone:
Continental Cast Stone, Inc.
400 Cooper Road
W. Berlin, NJ 08091
Phone: 856-753-4000

Lighting/Electric Installation (sub):
Atlas-Acon Electric Service Corp
50 Rockefeller Plaza
New York, NY 10020
(212) 245-0265

Interior ambient lighting:
Neon sconce lighting in atrium and 67th Floor Weather Room
Manhattan Neon Sign Corp.
514 West 36th Street
New York, NY 10018
Tel: 212.714.0430

Mezzanine Exhibition space & 67th Floor (Weather Room) downlights
Litelab Corp.
251 Elm Street
Buffalo, NY 14203-1675
Tel: 800-238-4120

Exterior - Window / façade sconce:
P.O. Box 1060
5 Lumen Lane
Highland, NY 12528
Tel: 845.691.7723


Escalators (67th-69th Fl)
Schindler Elevator Corporation (HQ)
Tel. 973-397-6500
P.O. Box 1935
Morristown, New Jersey 07962- 1935

Elevator Subcontractor:
Schindler Elevator Corporation
50 Rockefeller Plaza, Room SB4
New York, NY 10020-1625
Tel: 212 515-8010

Drinking water fountains:
15 Kit Street
Keene, NH 03431

Atrium Stair Structure:
Empire City Iron Works
10-37 46th Road
Long Island City, NY 11101
Tel: 718.361.0100

Architectural Metal (curving glass/metal atrium railing):
Architectural Metal Group (AMG) Design, Inc.
31-09 Newtown Ave, Suite 309
Astoria, NY 11102
Tel: 718.545.9264

Architectural Glass and Metal:
Coordinated Metals, Inc (CMI)
626 Sixteenth Street
Carlstadt, NJ 07072
Tel (NY): 212.594.6574

Atrium Chandelier “Joie:
Swarovski Crystal Waterfall) and 67th Floor Core Wall “Radiance: Swarovski Crystal Geode”
Nagel Hammers Studios
Weisenweg 31
50389 Wesseling, Germany
Tel: 49 2236 8499 31

Crystal supplier:
Swarovski (212) 935-4200)

Laminated art glass:
Derix Glasstudios.; Design by Gabellini Sheppard Associates, LLP

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