One World Observatory

July 26, 2019 Jenn Petersen

A room with a view and a high-speed immersive experience to capture the imagination

Manhattan, New York


Ride the Sky Pod elevator 102 floors to the top of the tallest building in the Western Hemisphere and feel the rhythm and pulse of New York in 47 amazing, immersive seconds. That’s the experience visitors get when they visit New York’s One World Observatory. The Observatory sits on top of One World Trade Center, a building constructed to be the symbolic representation of New York City’s prominence on the world stage. This iconic building also known as Freedom Tower has become a major tourist destination for the city.

The visitor experience begins with a personalized welcome. Information from the visitor’s ticket is scanned to create a 3D geographic data visualization which is the basis of a greeting in the visitor’s language when they enter the Global Welcome Center. While they wait in the lobby, visitors can watch a video that uses aerial and time-lapse content combined with abstract images to showcase the rhythm of life in New York. There are also videowalls that show the construction of the building and a themed recreation of the rocks that form the building’s foundation.

The highlight of the visit is a showstopping ride in the Sky Pod. While the elevator travels at speed up 102 floors visitors are surrounded by an immersive time journey that recreates the history of Manhattan across centuries from its origins as wooded island to international city of commerce — all in just 47 seconds. The show doesn’t stop there. When they reach the top, visitors get the full New York skyline in clear view plus the experience of walking over a glass floor created by a floor-mounted video wall. Technology brings the city and its history to life, and it’s not just visitors who are impressed. The innovative Observatory experience has received the prestigious Thea Award for Outstanding Achievement in the Attractions category.


The view from the top is a spectacle in itself, but the owners knew they had to keep visitors engaged while they waited to enter this very busy attraction. They also wanted to create a ‘feel good factor’ around a building which can still create painful memories for people who experienced 9/11. There’s a challenge with distance too — visitors enter on the ground floor and the main focus is over 100 floors up. To keep visitors engaged, the owners wanted to build anticipation for the top-floor spectacle and create a welcoming atmosphere, particularly for the many overseas visitors.

Creating an experience in a high-speed elevator was a major challenge. The owners wanted to recreate the history of Manhattan in less than a minute. It had to engage immediately without distracting from the thrill of the ride and it had to be visible to all the occupants. Electrosonic was appointed to engineer the audiovisual and show control elements of the experience, but they had to work within the confines of rigorous site operational and security requirements as well as a tight schedule.

Spectacular high-level views and innovative audiovisual make for a memorable visitor experience.


The Global Welcome Center creates a personalized greeting for visitors by converting realtime data into multilingual messages and displaying interesting facts about visitors’ journeys. The experience in the elevator is completely immersive, surrounding occupants with virtual timelapse recreations of history. When visitors reach the top an innovative videowall gradually reveals a stylized skyscape to set the scene for stunning live views of the city.


One World Observatory has proved to be a major tourist attraction drawing large crowds from around the world. It has also received a prestigious industry award for achievement with audiovisual technology playing a key role in engaging, entertaining and informing visitors in an innovative way. The immersive experience in a high-speed elevator proves that no space is too small to engage visitors and create the WOW factor.

"There are a million things to experience in New York, but there’s only one way to experience them all at once." - Visitor Review, One World Observatory

"Spectacular intro show with some real wow moments. The ride to the top in the elevator is amazing and a fantastic story of how New York was built." - Visitor Review, One World Observatory

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