See the History of Manhattan's Skyline in Less Than a Minute


On May 29, 1 World Trade Center’s One World Observatory will be opening to the masses. To entertain (and educate) those riding up to the top of the 102 story building, the elevator’s walls will display a panoramic time-lapse of Manhattan’s landscape since the year 1500—a 47-second history that's definitely more efficient than a walking tour or a semester long seminar. 

Starting 55 feet underground, the elevator cab erupts from the earth—traveling at 23 miles per hour—through swampland and into the sky. It travels above the roofs of a colonial town, extends over the first skyscrapers, looms over modern office buildings, and for four seconds, rides side by side with the old World Trade Center tower. At the very end, the framework of steel beams and concrete enclose the elevator as it reaches its final destination.

The New York Times describes the ride down as “more fanciful ... The elevator cab appears to leave the confines of the tower entirely and sail around it in a great arc before re-entering through windows that obligingly slide apart.” The article features a video of the time-lapse, and a 3D recreation of the observatory deck and the elevator ride up can be seen on the site of one of the show’s designers.

Only the five elevators going up to the observatory are equipped with the nine 75-inch high definition monitors that show the time-lapse animation; the cost of admission is $32 per adult.