At SUMMIT One Vanderbilt, the art and science of window washing at dizzying heights are on full display. Not all the time, of course — the exterior windows don’t need daily wipe-downs — but window washing occurs regularly enough to give visitors a unique, insider look into how a dazzling space like SUMMIT stays in a pristine state.
A lot of work goes into the upkeep of the installations at SUMMIT. The 30,375 square feet of mirrors that comprise Transcendence I, for example, must be polished and sanitized routinely. It’s a never-ending responsibility — one that team members appreciate doing because they see the joy their attention to detail brings.
Still, it’s hard to beat the thrill of window washing as part of the NYC skyscraper experience.
If you’ve never visited SUMMIT, you might not appreciate how jarring it can be to notice someone working outside the windows. After the initial shock subsides, most attendees grab their cameras to document some of the bravest Manhattan window cleaning workers in action.
That’s not an exaggeration, either. While many people struggle with acrophobia, or a fear of heights, NYC’s finest skyscraper window washers don’t. They can perform tasks at heights that most would find downright terrifying. Keep in mind, though, that while skyscraper window cleaning might look unbelievable risky, it’s actually very safe. If “How strong are skyscraper windows?” is a question that has crossed your mind, rest assured — they’re pretty strong. And every window washer has a safety harness and uses a very sturdy, reliable pully system that allows them to work in a secure and efficient way. Everything they do is a testament to human ingenuity and courage.
Watching window washers swiftly turn smudged glass clear — all while positioned against some of NYC’s most iconic buildings and landmarks — is nothing short of captivating. It’s also a perfect chance to capture a buzzworthy image of spirit and bravery to post on social media.
While window washing in NYC is a spectacular sight, there’s another maintenance task that’s just as delightful: the attention given to the helium orbs.
Affinity — also affectionately called the “ball room” for reasons you can probably guess — is one of the most beloved installations at SUMMIT. The reflective orbs add an ethereal sensibility to the space, inviting guests to engage with their playful sides. But these orbs can’t take care of themselves. They need assistance from experts who have gone through “Orb Training School.”
If this makes you smile, you’ll understand why everyone who works at SUMMIT values their role in keeping the helium orbs shiny and afloat. What most guests don’t realize is that each orb must be inflated with just the right amount of helium so they float with a predictable buoyancy. This process ensures that each orb floats elegantly, dancing and swaying as if by choreographed patterns.
Once a week, the helium orbs get a full inspection to ensure that their strings are intact and their enchanting beams are strong and dazzling. Orbs at the end of their life spans are removed from Affinity and recycled so shiny new orbs can take their place. This way, the “ball room” is always alive with their sparkling, delicate waltz.
Interestingly, some staff members at SUMMIT swear that the helium orbs have personalities of their own. For example, a few orbs seem to be particularly adventurous and plucky, trying to float away on breezy days. These tales of orbs trying to strike out on their own just add to the magic of the installation.
At its heart and soul, SUMMIT isn’t just about providing a place for people to immerse themselves in awe-inspiring views of New York City. It’s about offering up a location so magical and otherworldly that it can make even NYC window washing or filling orbs with helium a transcendent experience.
SUMMIT is where you go when you want to turn a regular day into a lifelong memory. Once Rise brings you to the 91st floor, you’re up so high that you feel as if you’re flying. From this vantage point, surrounded by mirrors, you can look as much without as you can within. The art installations, gleaming surfaces, and thoughtfully curated soundscapes at SUMMIT are engineered to stimulate both the intellect and the spirit.
Whether your visit to SUMMIT is your first or your 20th, take a moment to soak in all parts of the atmosphere. Look for recognizable structures and think about the culture-rich history and heritage of New York City, all while you listen to languages from around the world during a meal at Après.
Most importantly, take a moment to give a personal thanks to the window washers and orb experts who make the SUMMIT experience possible. Visit the SUMMIT website to sign up for your ticket today!