It is an unmistakable and shocking sight: a human body falling from the top of a tall building. On a clear October day, tourists and travelers will catch this glimpse as they walk through Berlin’s central Alexanderplatz square, seconds of terror as a man fell from the roof of the 41-story Park Inn hotel.
man was salvatore escalante, “I was screaming. Then I had to take a breath, and keep screaming,” recalls Escalante, who survived the fall because it wasn’t really a fall.
He was experiencing a tourist attraction called . is called base flying, which provides the opportunity for people to put and drop into a harness on the side of a building. Escalante, who runs a tour agency in El Salvador, visited his girlfriend in Berlin and was taken to Bass Flying as a birthday surprise. “She knew I loved adrenaline and said, ‘I’ve got the perfect gift for you,'” he says.
So on that clear, windless October day, Escalante was tied to a rope, hauled to a platform several feet from the side of a 400-foot-tall building, and dropped into a free fall. After about 260 feet, an automatic system kicked in and slowly slowed the rope, causing it to fall smoothly to the ground.
“Otherwise it will break all your bones, of course,” says Andreas Hofer, a manager for Jochen Schweizer GrupeThe base flying . Make in 2009, Founded by a former champion kayaker-turned-stuntman, the company operates adventure-based experiences throughout Germany, including Germany. Bungee Jumping with Industrial Cranes And rappelling face-first under the sides of buildings. The company was looking to expand its offering.
“We found an engineer who was really into victory and computer technology — and security, luckily,” Hofer says. “He built the system from scratch.” Now Base Flying drops about a thousand people a month from the top of the Park Inn hotel. With tickets running around $80 per person, Hoefer says the business nets about $40,000 per month.
Base Flying is one of a growing number of urban tourist experiences that satisfy adventure-seekers like Escalante while earning significant profits for their operators, combining tall buildings and safe-but-yet-scary thrills. It is a growing niche in the tall-construction industry as skyscrapers continue to grow in more parts of the world.
For the full three-second drop over the Park Inn, a base flying customer will have an unobstructed view fernsaturmo, Berlin’s iconic disco-ball television tower. Opened in 1969, this skyscraper is representative of a bygone era of tourism, with an observation deck and a revolving restaurant.
TV tower is operated by grandeur, a French company that runs tourist sites in historic buildings around the world. The company got its start in 1974 when it bought the top floor of the Montparnasse Tower in Paris and converted it into an observation deck. This 56th floor space offers what the company calls “best view“of the Eiffel Tower – the site of the first urban observation deck, opened in 1889.
Magnicity has expanded in recent years; It now owns or leases space in four buildings in Europe and the US. In a typical, non-pandemic year, Magnicity’s sites attract more than 3 million visitors, generating approximately $60 million in revenue.
“You can’t find many experts in this area,” says Alexia Vettier, CEO of Magnesity. “We believe that we are, and we want to be the leader in the management of the observation deck.”
But just giving people a place to see the city is not enough. Vettier says Magnesity is putting more of its efforts into operational—and in some cases invention—thrills-based skyscraper experiences.
In Chicago, it operates dance, a platform on the 94th floor of the former John Hancock Center tower that tilts outward 30 degrees from the building, giving its eight residents the experience of being suspended 1,030 feet down the streets of Chicago. Vettier says that nearly 1.6 million people have experienced tingling since it was added to the building in 2014, 45 years after the original construction.
More than half of those who pay to travel more traditional observation deck Pay to lean into the tower as well. Skyscraper thrills are profitable, Vettier says, noting that the aim is to create more attractions like this one: “When we can build a thrilling attraction, we do it.”
Increasingly, this means working with developers and architects before a building is even designed, and finding ways to integrate adventure-based experiences into the building form. Vettier points to 30 Hudson Yards in New York as a recent example: both an observation deck and a thrilling experience were designed into the project from its early days.
The $25 Billion Hudson Yards Development Has a Hundred Storeys corner, a cantilevering outdoor observation deck that protrudes from the side of an office tower. Its sides are lined with clear glass windows that slant slightly outward, and a large portion of its 7,500-square-foot floor space is stained glass, giving visitors a straight-edge of the 1,000-foot drop. Gives the bottom scene- or selfie background.
“We didn’t want it to be just on top of a tall building. We wanted it to really feel like floating above the city,” says Jason Horkin, VP of Hudson Yards Experience, the company that operates the Edge. But they Did not stop with the observation deck.
“Long ago, there was a discussion that said, ‘Look if we’re going to put an attraction on top of a building, what else can we do to set ourselves apart? What else can we do that’s a The thrill factor?'”
A design competition was launched to find out. The winning design was the City Climb, a harness running up the sloping roof of the building. For $185, a visitor can don a jumpsuit and helmet, strap on, and walk up a ladder built into the top edge of the building. At its peak, 1,200 feet above, is a small platform where, attached to two harnesses, visitors can walk to the side and lean in, as if diving in a pool.
Horkin, who has done the City Climb two dozen times, says it is “for a small fraction of the population” compared to the more straight Edge observation deck below, but thrill-seekers will be happy to use it. it occurs.
“It’s definitely designed to be a money maker,” he says (though he declined to offer revenue figures).
This is not to say that providing such offerings has been easy. Obtaining permits and approvals for City Climb added additional steps to the building’s development process. But Horkin says that the piggybacking city climb to the top of the Edge means the two sites share much of the building infrastructure, such as access, lobby, and bathrooms.
“If you had a building with nothing else on top and you tried to do something like this, it would probably be prohibitive from a cost perspective as well as an approval perspective,” he says. “Is it more complicated? Yes. Is it so complicated that it just isn’t worth doing? No.”
It also requires the right site; 30 Hudson Yards is quite tall and with a few equally tall neighbors it can offer an iconic 360-degree view of the city, on the shore and an indoor observation area. On a clear day, a visitor can see the Statue of Liberty, Central Park and Yankee Stadium – a boon for tourists.
“From one vantage point you can see all the hits,” Horkin says. This building is also true to what Horkin calls the sweet spot in terms of height. “There’s like diminishing returns on adventure and height,” he says. “If you go too high you lose touch with the fact that you’re actually on top of a building overlooking the city.”
Back when the first observation deck was built in Paris in 1889, the whole point of view of the city was, as it may seem now. French literary theorist Roland Barthes argued in his 1964 essay “Eiffel Tower“that its observation deck created an “architecture of vision”, allowing people not only to live in a city at ground level, but to see and understand it from above, like the omniscient and extractive of some urban guidebooks. The storyteller went
Looking and thinking about the city from a great height is clearly not the novelty it once was. David Derrieu is an architectural historian at the University of Westminster in London, and he says the experience economy may be partly to blame.
“The adventure tourism business is incorporated into architecture,” says Deriou, who is working on a book about the relationship between Urban environment and dizzy experience, He points to all the marketing materials for the skyscraper as “courageous” customers to challenge their limits and face their fears.
Rather than being associated with Hitchcock-fueled anxiety, experiencing the great heights of buildings is now associated with achievement and bravery. “It’s become something desirable. It’s been transformed and marketed as a thrill,” says Deriu.
It’s hard to argue against the business side of building adventure-based features. Deriou says that many observation deck spaces often see visitors only stay an average of 20 minutes. “When you look at real businesses, they’re cash machines,” he says.
He links it to the 1994 opening of a glass-floored section of the observation deck at Toronto’s CN Tower. At about 250 square feet, a tiny window on the floor created a new kind of urban scene—more than 1,100 feet straight down. Dozens of buildings around the world followed suit with their own glass floor viewing areas, especially in the mid-2000s. This access to a previously impossible view may have opened some sort of architectural floodgate.
Such elements are increasingly common even in residential buildings. There are infinity pools that give the impression of swimming toward the end of the world, and glass-barrier condo balconies that invite residents to walk directly into the void from their living rooms.
“Maybe the point is to enjoy the ability to fall, but you have to confront the idea that falling is possible,” says Deriu, noting that the psychological impact of experiencing a skyscraper thrill is ripe for additional study. Is.
“By the time there was the first glass floor at the top of the CN Tower in Toronto, I don’t think anyone was screaming for it. Nobody desperately needed a glass floor,” Deriou says. “Now it’s almost ubiquitous “
New towers growing around the world are creating more room for observation decks, and more opportunities for adventure. in Bangkok, glass floor observation deck Mahanakhon Tower is 1,030 feet above the ground. In Dubai, the Sky View Dubai Tower features a glass slide Connected to the outside of the building, which starts more than 700 feet above. In Shanghai, Jin Mao Tower has a rail-free exterior walkways around its 88th floor, Skyscraper adventures abound, and more are likely to develop.
In New York, Horkin of the Hudson Yards Experience says a thrilling experience like the City Climb may be just one of many coming to the city, though they will take a different shape. “New York can support a lot of things. Can it support another walk on top of a building? Maybe not,” he says. “Can it support some other thrill-type things ? probably.”
Hofer of Base Flying in Berlin estimates that people are naturally concerned with heights and the possibility of falling, so are able to reach experiences that give the feeling of falling without really Fall will always appeal.
“We are made to walk on land and swim a little. But falling is not our thing. We will break some bones, or die,” he says. “So it’s still scary, and that will never change.”