Strange Skyscraper in Bangkok 

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MahaNakhon is a luxury mixed-use skyscraper currently under final stages of completion prior to the grand opening in late August 2016, located in the Silom/Sathon central business area of Bangkok, Thailand. Designed to fit into the Thai landscape with a unique pixelated facade, it features the unconventional appearance of a glass curtain walled square tower with a cuboid-surfaced spiral cut into the side of the building. Following transfer of the first residential units in April 2016, it has been recognized as the tallest building in Thailand on 4 May at 314.2 metres (1,031 ft), with 77 floors. Featuring hotel, retail and residences, 200 units of The Ritz-Carlton Residences, Bangkok inside the building are priced between around US$1,100,000 to US$17,000,000, making it one of the most expensive condominiums in Bangkok.

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The Most Grandiose Mansion in the United States

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Biltmore Estate is a large (8,000-acre) private estate and tourist attraction in Asheville, North Carolina. Biltmore House, the main house on the estate, is a Châteauesque-styled mansion built by George Washington Vanderbilt II between 1889 and 1895 and is the largest privately owned house in the United States, at 178,926 square feet (16,622.8 m2) of floor space (135,280 square feet (12,568 m2) of living area). Still owned by one of Vanderbilt’s descendants, it stands today as one of the most prominent remaining examples of the Gilded Age.

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In the 1880s, at the height of the Gilded Age, George Washington Vanderbilt II, youngest son of William Henry Vanderbilt, began to make regular visits with his mother, Maria Louisa Kissam Vanderbilt (1821–1896), to the Asheville, North Carolina, area. He loved the scenery and climate so much that he decided to create his own summer estate in the area, which he called his “little mountain escape”, just as his older brothers and sisters had built opulent summer houses in places such as Newport, Rhode Island, and Hyde Park, New York. Vanderbilt named his estate Biltmore derived from “Bildt,” Vanderbilt’s ancestors’ place of origin in Holland, and “More”, Anglo-Saxon for open, rolling land.

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William A. V. Cecil, Sr. returned to the estate in 1960 and joined his brother to manage the estate and make it a profitable and self-sustaining enterprise like his grandfather envisioned. He eventually inherited the estate upon the death of his mother, Cornelia, in 1976, while his brother, George Henry Vanderbilt Cecil, inherited the then more profitable dairy farm which was split off into Biltmore Farms. In 1995, while celebrating the 100th anniversary of the estate, Cecil turned over control of the company to his son, William A.V. Cecil, Jr.

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The Vanderbilt family is an American family of Dutch origin that was prominent during the Gilded Age (1870-1900). Their success began with the shipping and railroad empires of Cornelius Vanderbilt, and the family expanded into various other areas of industry and philanthropy. Cornelius Vanderbilt’s descendants went on to build grand mansions on Fifth Avenue in New York City, luxurious “summer cottages” in Newport, Rhode Island, the palatial Biltmore House in Asheville, North Carolina, and various other opulent homes.

The Vanderbilt’s were once the wealthiest family in America. Cornelius Vanderbilt was the richest American in history until his death in 1877. After that, his son William acquired his father’s fortune, and was the richest American until his death in 1885. The Vanderbilts’ prominence lasted until the mid-20th century, when the family’s 10 great Fifth Avenue mansions were torn down, and most other Vanderbilt houses were sold or turned into museums in what has been referred to as the “Fall of the House of Vanderbilt”.

Branches of the family are found on the United States East Coast. Contemporary descendants include fashion designer Gloria Vanderbilt, her youngest son, journalist Anderson Cooper, musician John P. Hammond, screenwriter James Vanderbilt and actor Timothy Olyphant.

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How Antarctic bases went from wooden huts to sci-fi chic

BBC Magazine

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How do you build in the most isolated place on Earth? For decades Antarctica – the only continent with no indigenous population – hosted only the simplest huts as human shelters. But, as Matthew Teller finds out, architecture in the coldest, driest, windiest reaches of our planet is getting snazzier.

Welcome to Brazil’s Comandante Ferraz Antarctic research station.

It’s an eye-popping, futuristic design – a dark, sleek building, low and long, that is destined to be a temporary waterfront home for up to 65 people at a time.

The price tag is a hefty $100m (£80m). And while a Chinese company is building it, it’s not in China, and almost no-one will ever see it.

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After the original burned down in 2012, the Brazilian navy launched an architectural competition for a replacement design – won by a local firm – and then awarded the building tender to a Chinese defence and engineering contractor, CEIEC. It was completed in 2018.

A design of the Brazilian Comandante Ferraz station

Image caption The upper block will contain cabins, dining and living space; the lower block will house laboratories and operational areas

Located on a small island just off the coast of Antarctica, it lies almost 1,000km (600 miles) south of the tip of South America. No scheduled air routes come close and it’s way off any shipping lanes.

And even if you could reach it yourself, like all Antarctic research stations Comandante Ferraz will be closed to the public. Virtually nobody other than the crews posted there will ever see it in the flesh. So why, you may ask, spend so much on architectural style? Wouldn’t a dull but functional building do just as well?

Brazil is not alone in paying for eye-catching design, though.

In 2013, India unveiled its Bharati station, with a similar modernist design.

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Designed by bof arkitekten, Bharati overlooks the sea and is used to study polar marine life

It was made from 134 prefabricated shipping containers, for ease of transport and construction, but you would never guess it from the outside.

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And the following year, South Korea opened its Jang Bogo station – a grand, triple-winged module lifted on steel-reinforced blocks, capable of supporting a crew of 60.

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What is the explanation for this architectural flamboyance?

“Antarctic stations have become the equivalent of embassies on the ice,” says Prof Anne-Marie Brady, editor-in-chief of the Polar Journal and author of China as a Polar Great Power.

“They are showcases for a nation’s interests in Antarctica – status symbols.”

Those interests could be purely scientific. But a moratorium on mineral prospecting runs out in just over 40 years’ time, and every Antarctic player also wants to be ready to take advantage, should it not be extended.

Planting a dramatic building on the ice has become the modern equivalent of explorers of old planting a flag.

It wasn’t always like this.

In March 1903, the 33 men of the Scottish National Antarctic Expedition landed on the outlying South Orkney Islands and built a dry-stone shack.

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John Kerry visited the hut in November.

Then came a – relative – building boom, spurred by the International Geophysical Year (IGY) of 1957-58, a global project for co-operation in science. The 1959 Antarctic Treaty, which resulted from the IGY, suspended all territorial claims, but that led many countries to set about consolidating their presence in other ways, such as construction.

The treaty’s clause giving countries conducting “substantial research activity” in Antarctica a vote in meetings to determine the continent’s future was another incentive to maintain a physical presence.

The US’s sprawling McMurdo research station dates from this period. Powered from 1962 to 1972 by a nuclear reactor, it is the biggest settlement on the continent, housing a summer population of about 1,200.

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The McMurdo station has a harbour, landing strips on sea ice and shelf ice, and a helicopter pad

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The McMurdo coffee house serves hot drinks to workers and is attached to a small cinema – the chapel of the snows, a non-denominational Christian church, is nearby

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 Designed by Hugh Broughton Architects and Aecom, Britain’s Halley VI’s red module contains the communal areas

Halley VI, however, is Antarctica’s first relocatable research station. Its eight connected pods – like giant, colourful train carriages, which can be isolated to limit the spread of fire – sit on hydraulic legs mounted on huge, 8m-long skis. This means that the pods can be detached from each other, dragged by bulldozers to a new location, and the whole station reassembled.

That design is being put to good use, as Halley is currently being moved to avoid a chasm that is opening up in the ice nearby.

And Halley VI is both glamorous and comfortable.

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Unlike earlier Halley stations, each bedroom now has a window to the outside

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“All the newest bases look good as well as do the science – it’s a reflection of the priorities of our era,” says Anne-Marie Brady.

South Africa was one of the first countries to solve the problem of snow accumulation with its SANAE IV base, which opened in 1997. It was designed with stilt-like legs, which let snow blow under the building.

Germany applied the same concept to its Neumayer III base, which opened in 2009, with an extra refinement. Sixteen hydraulic pillars allow the entire two-storey structure to be raised every year by around a metre. The foot of each pillar is then lifted and replaced on a new firm base of packed snow.

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Neumayer III always stands 6m above the ice – up to 50 people live there during the summer and nine in the winter

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Like the UK’s Halley base, Concordia, an Italian and French research facility is used by the European Space Agency to study the physical and psychological effects of isolation – the nearest people are stationed 600 km (370 miles) away

Another element of Antarctic architecture that has become critical is energy efficiency. Most stations run on polar diesel, which is expensive, polluting and difficult to transport. Belgium’s Princess Elisabeth station, an aerodynamic pod raised on steel legs, is the first with zero emissions.

Since its inauguration in 2009 it has run entirely on solar and wind energy, and – even here – has no heating. The station’s layered design means interior temperatures are maintained from waste heat generated by electrical systems and human activity, and dense wall insulation reduces heat loss to almost zero.

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Photovoltaic solar panels also provide electricity, while thermal solar panels melt snow and heat water for bathrooms and kitchens

If the Princess Elisabeth station looks like something out of a Bond movie, China’s latest Antarctic station Taishan – its fourth – has been likened to a flying saucer. It was rush-built in 45 days in 2013-14, and is intended to last only a few years.

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The Nuclear Bunker Where America Preserves Its Audio-Visual Heritage

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The Library of Congress has over 160 million items in its collection, including 23 million books, and more than 1.1 million films, and television programs ranging from motion pictures made in the 1890s to today’s TV programs. It has the original camera negatives of 1903’s The Great Train Robbery and Victor Fleming’s Gone With The Wind. It even has all the sequels of Scary Movie and modern hit TV shows such as Judge Judy. The library also holds nearly 3.5 million audio recordings of public radio broadcasts and music, representing over a hundred years of sound recording history. It has films and audio on nearly all formats, from cylinders to magnetic tapes to CDs. It’s the Noah’s Ark of the creative history of the United States.

Most of the library’s audio and video collections are stored in a Cold War bunker at the foothills of Blue Ridge Mountains in Culpeper, Virginia. Known as the Packard Campus of the National Audio-Visual Conservation Center, it is the Library of Congress’s latest audiovisual archive storage facility.

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The Packard Campus was originally built in 1969 as a high-security storage facility where the Federal Reserve Board stored $3 billion in cash, so that it could replenish the cash supply east of the Mississippi River in the event of a catastrophic war with the Soviet Union. Like most nuclear bunkers built during the Cold War period, the radiation-hardened Packard Campus was constructed of steel-reinforced concrete one foot thick, had lead-lined shutters and was surrounded dirt strips and barbed-wire fences. The bunker could also house up to 540 people for a month. It had beds and freeze-dried food, an incinerator, indoor pistol range, a helicopter landing pad and a cold-storage area for bodies awaiting burial in case radiation levels were too high to go outside.

After the Cold War ended, the bunker was decommissioned and sat abandoned for four years before it was purchased by the David and Lucile Packard Foundation on behalf of the Library of Congress. Nearly $240 million was spent transforming the bunker into a state-of-the-art storage facility with more than 90 miles of shelving for collections storage, 35 climate controlled vaults for sound recording, safety film, and videotape, and 124 nitrate film vaults.

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The facility also housed the Culpeper Switch, which was the central switching station of the Federal Reserve’s Fedwire electronic funds transfer system, which at the time connected only the Fed’s member banks. The Culpeper Switch also served as a data backup point for member banks east of the Mississippi River.

In 1988, all money was removed from Mount Pony. The Culpeper Switch ceased operation in 1992, its functions having been decentralized to three smaller sites. In addition, its status as continuity of government site was removed. The facility was poorly maintained by a skeleton staff until 1997 when the bunker was offered for sale. With the approval of the United States Congress, it was purchased by the David and Lucile Packard Foundation from the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond via a $5.5 million grant, done on behalf of the Library of Congress. With a further $150 million from the Packard Humanities Institute and $82.1 million from Congress, the facility was transformed into the National Audio-Visual Conservation Center, which opened in mid-2007. The center offered, for the first time, a single site to store all 6.3 million pieces of the library’s movie, television, and sound collection.

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The Packard Campus was designed to be a green building, being situated mostly underground and topped with sod roofs. It was designed to have minimal visual impact on the Virginia countryside by blending into the existing landscape. From the northwest, only a semi-circular terraced arcade appears in the hill to allow natural light into the administrative and work areas. Additionally, the site also included the largest private sector re-forestation effort on the Eastern Seaboard, amassing over 9,000 tree saplings and nearly 200,000 other plantings.

The campus also contains a 206-seat theater capable of projecting both film and modern digital cinema and which features a digital organ that rises from under the stage to accompany silent film screenings. The Packard Campus currently holds semi-weekly screenings of films of cultural significance in its reproduction Art Deco theater.

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The Storied History of San Francisco’s Cliff House

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 The first Cliff House was built in 1858, above Ocean Beach, in west San Francisco. It has been rebuilt five times since for various reasons, such as remodeling or damage.

In 1894, the third, and most photographed, incarnation of the house was built by Adolph Sutro, a successful mining engineer. Sutro built the seven-story mansion in Victorian style, an elaborately decorated structure dubbed the “Gingerbread House.” It was a hotel for most of its incarnation.

Cliff House was the scene of a number of historic events, including several shipwrecks. A wreck in 1887 caused damage to the second Cliff House when the dynamite on the ship exploded. The first ship-to-shore transmission, using Morse Code, was received here in 1899 and in 1905; the first radio voice transmission was sent from the house to a point a mile and a half away.

–“Select a table next to one of the western windows and order a breakfast that is served here better than any place we have tried. This breakfast will consist of broiled breast of young turkey, served with broiled Virginia ham with a side dish of corn fritters. We have discovered nothing that makes so complete a breakfast as this.”Clarence E. Edwards, 1914–

Cliff House survived the earthquake that struck San Francisco in 1906 with only minor damage. It burned to the ground the following year, however. Sutro’s daughter began the construction of a new Cliff House restaurant in 1908, but on a vastly smaller scale. And so it is today.

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In 1937, George and Leo Whitney purchased the Cliff House, to complement their Playland-at-the-Beach attraction nearby, and extensively remodelled it into an American roadhouse. From 1955 until 1961, a sky tram operated across the Sutro Baths basin, taking up to 25 visitors at a time from Point Lobos, enhanced by an artificial waterfall, to the outer balcony of the Cliff House.

In the 1960s, upon the closing of Playland, the Musée Mécanique, a museum of 20th-century penny arcade games, was moved into the basement of the Cliff House. The building was acquired by the National Park Service in 1977 and became part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area.

In 2003, as part of an extensive renovation, many of Whitney’s additions were removed and the building was restored to its 1909 appearance. A new two-story wing was constructed overlooking what were by then the ruins of the Sutro Baths. (The Baths burned to the ground on June 26, 1966). During the site restoration, the Musée Mécanique was moved to Fisherman’s Wharf.

More than thirty ships have been pounded to pieces on the southern shore of the Golden Gate below the Cliff House.

The area immediately around Cliff House is part of the setting of Jack London’s novel The Scarlet Plague (1912).

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The Art of the Temple

The 1,444 Carved Pillars of Ranakpur Jain Temple No Two of Which Are Alike 

Ranakpur is a village located in the lush green valley of Aravalli mountain ranges in Pali district of Rajasthan, in western India. It is home to one of the biggest and most important Jain temple complexes of India, covering an area of nearly 48,000 square feet area, and has 29 halls, 80 domes and supported by 1444 marble pillars, each of them intricately and artistically carved, yet no two of them are alike.

The Ranakpur Jain Temple was built by a wealthy Jain businessman named Dharma Shah under the patronage of the liberal and gifted Rajput monarch Rana Kumbha in the 15th century. According to local legend Dharma Shah had a celestial vision that left in his heart a burning determination to build a temple in honor of Adinath, the founder of the Jain religion. When Dharma Shah approached Rana Kumbha with his plan, the king not only gave him a plot of land to build the temple but also advised him to build a township near the site. The construction of the temple and the township began simultaneously. The town was named Ranakpur after the King Rana Kumbha.

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The temple is said to have cost 10 million Rupees and took more than fifty years to build. The entire building is covered with delicate lace-like carvings and geometric patterns. The domes are carved in concentric bands and the brackets connecting the base of the dome with the top are covered with figures of deities.

“In spite of the complexity, the vast expanse and the loftiness of the temple, the architectural balance and symmetry are not the least affected,” reads a description of the temple at Ranakpurtemple.com

The artiste sculptures which lie scattered like precious jewels, the myriad ornate Toranas’ or festoons with minute and delicate carvings, the innumerable elegant and lofty pillars and a large number of Shikharas, (spires) which make a unique pattern on the face of the sky-all these works of spiritual art, as one approaches them, become alive and make the beholder oblivious of all else but a feeling of ecstasy, as if touched by the sublimity of Divine Bliss.

The most outstanding feature of this temple is its infinite number of pillars.

In whichever direction one might turn one’s eyes meet pillars and pillars big, small, broad, narrow, ornate or plain. But the ingenious designer has arranged them in such a manner that none of them obstructs the view of the pilgrim wishing to have a Darshana’ (glimpse) of God. From any corner of the temple one can easily view the Lord’s image. These innumerable pillars have given rise to the popular belief that there are about 1444 pillars in the temple.

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For two centuries, the temple was a beacon of devotion before it fell upon hard times. Around the 17th century, the entire region was ravaged by war. Fearing that the statues would be desecrated, the priests hid them in cellars under the temple and fled the area. The invading forces vandalized the temple and left, but the priests never returned. The temple fell into neglect and gradually the elements began to take over. At one point Ranakpur became a refuge for dacoits and no person dared to venture inside. It was only around the first quarter of the 20th century that people realized the immense crime they were committing by allowing this structure of beauty and devotion to rot away, and the temple was restored to its former glory.

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The Ultimate Zombie-Proof House

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KWK Promes, an architecture firm in Poland, calls the concrete house with movable walls “The Safe House.” It’s located in a small village outside of Warsaw, and is as elegant as it is secure, with glass walls throughout when the concrete slabs are pulled back.

Over 8,000 square feet, it’s built for real world protection, According to the KWK Promes website, “the clients wanted the feeling of maximum security in their future home.” After crossing an outer gate, visitors have to wait in a “safety zone” before concrete slabs are moved to let them in. Additionally, there’s a drawbridge that leads to the swimming pool.

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A drawbridge that leads to a terrace on top of the pool

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This takes irrational paranoia to a whole new level. Or does it?

Kansas City’s Side-By-Side Stadiums

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The Harry S. Truman Sports Complex is a sports and entertainment facility located in Kansas City, Missouri. It is home to two major sports venues: Arrowhead Stadium—home of the National Football League’s Kansas City Chiefs, and Kauffman Stadium—home of Major League Baseball’s Kansas City Royals. The complex also hosts various other events during the year.

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Kauffman Stadium at bottom has a capacity of 40,000.  Arrowhead Stadium at the top has a capacity of 76,420.

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Southern Plantation Mansions in the U.S.

The era of plantation mansion construction in the U.S. South ran roughly from the 1770’s until the outbreak of the Civil War in 1860. The rich plantation owners (farmers that had more than 50 slaves) grew a variety of crops which were for the most part exported to Europe. The main crop however was cotton. The plantation owners built big houses, many of which fall into the category of mansions.

It must always be remembered much of the wealth acquired by these plantation owners came on the backs of Black slaves.

The Cotton Belt

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In colonial Delaware, Georgia, Maryland, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Virginia, the earliest plantation houses tended to follow British-derived folk forms such as the hall and parlor house-type and central-passage house-type.

Grander structures during the later colonial period usually conformed to the neoclassically-influenced Georgian and Palladian styles, although some very early and rare Jacobean structures survive in Virginia. Following the Revolutionary War, Federal and Jeffersonian-type neoclassicism became dominant in formal plantation architecture.

When the cotton boom years began in the 1830s, the United States was entering its second neoclassical phase, with Greek Revival architecture being the dominant style. By this point trained architects were also becoming more common, and several introduced the style to the South. Whereas the earlier Federal and Jeffersonian neoclassicism displayed an almost feminine lightness, academic Greek Revival was very masculine, with a heaviness not seen in the earlier styles.

Greek Revival would remain a favorite architectural style in the agrarian South until well after the Civil War, but other styles had appeared in the nation about the same time as Greek Revival or soon afterward. These were primarily the Italianate and Gothic Revival. They were slower to be adopted in whole for domestic plantation architecture, but they can be seen in a fusion of stylistic influences. Houses that were basically Greek Revival in character sprouted Italianate towers, bracketed eaves, or adopted the asymmetrical massing characteristic of that style.

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Millford Plantation, South Carolina

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Destrehan, Louisiana

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Longwood, in Natchez, Mississippi

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Gaineswood, in Demopolis, Alabama

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Bowie, Maryland

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An Outdoor Observation Deck in NYC like no other


30 Hudson Yards (also the North Tower) is a super-tall skyscraper in the West Side area of Manhattan. Located near Hell’s Kitchen, Chelsea, and the Penn Station area, the building is part of the Hudson Yards Redevelopment Project, a plan to redevelop the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s West Side Yard. It is the sixth-tallest building in New York City.

The building has a triangular observation deck jutting out from the 100th floor, with a bar and event space on the 101st floor. This observation deck, at 1,100 feet, opened in March 2020 and is the second highest outdoor observation deck in the Western Hemisphere, after Toronto’s CN Tower Outdoor SkyTerrace (342m or 1,122 feet). (New York’s One World Trade Center has an observation deck on floors 100-102, at 1,268 feet and Chicago’s Willis Tower has an observation deck on its 103rd floor, at 1,354 feet; however, they are both enclosed.) It offers new skyline views to the south and east of Manhattan, the surrounding boroughs, and New Jersey.

The observation deck is called Edge NYC.