For the first time in 20 years, the observation deck atop Manhattan’s 30 Rockefeller Plaza has reopened to the public. Redesigned by architect Michael Gabellini, the Top of the Rock deck features panels of fully-transparent, non-reflective safety glass to allow unobstructed, open-air views of the entire city from the 69th floor.

On October 24, a gala party celebrated the Top of the Rock’s reopening, with dramatic lighting by John Ingram and Gregory Cohen of Unlimited Visibility Lighting Design (UVLD). Scharff Weisberg Lighting provided the extensive equipment inventory as well as the control system.

“It was exciting to be part of the reopening of this historic New York City landmark, and it is always challenging to meet the demands of such a high-technology production,” says Scharff Weisberg Lighting general manager Ben Saltzman. “This was the first show that we used our new City Theatrical wireless PDS system for Color Kinetics products and it performed flawlessly.”

UVLD spanned four floors to create the lighting for the reopening party. On the 66th floor, which is not open to the public, 16 Syncrolite 7,000W fixtures were positioned on the exterior catwalk. The searchlights swept the night sky for a festive, “golden age of Hollywood” atmosphere. “Programming the Syncrolites required a bit more precision than a traditional installation,” notes Ingram. “As the lights swept across the entire skyline, we took care to ensure that the residents of Manhattan would not be adversely affected.”

A total of 200 Color Kinetics ColorBlast® 12 RGB-mixing LED uplights were deployed for the installation. Sixty ColorBlast uplights lit the Deco-styled entry area on the 67th floor. More ColorBlasts fixtures illuminated the building’s exterior walls on the 69th floor observation deck.

On the 70th floor, UVLD hung 24 VARI*LITE VL2500™ automated lights from a series of vertical trusses. They provided illuminated animation to the floors below and projected patterns, including a custom Top of the Rock gobo, onto the building’s Doppler radar dome. A trio of Flying Pig Systems Wholehog® 2 consoles, supplied by Scharff Weisberg, controlled all of the lighting instruments, including the Syncrolites.

“The Top of the Rock space was still largely under construction when we started the installation,” says Cohen who is partner, along with Ingram, in UVLD. “The client did an incredible job of getting everything done in time; Tishman Speyer provided us with unfettered access to the venue.”

Sal Restuccia served as production electrician for the event and was assisted by John Ellar and Danny Kirsch. Glenn Mahoney of Tishman Speyer produced the opening-night event and continues to oversee the day-to-day operation of the observation deck.

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Rockefeller Center