It’s a hot morning in July, the heavy air bearing down on the city, when a photographer climbs up Liberty One’s spire, all 120 feet of it.
He attaches a robotic camera to the very top of the Center City skyscraper and then raises it on a 30-foot telescoping pole. A chopper whirrs in the distance, looking to snap a photo of the man who’s on a mission to build a hyper-detailed, 360-degree view of Philadelphia.
The photographer is from Panogs, a company from Portland, Ore., that produces gigapixel images, which are made out of thousands of high-resolution photos. He’s running the robotic camera to build what’s kind of like a tricked-out version of Google Street View for One Liberty Observation Deck, the city’s first observation deck.
It’ll be an interactive cityscape on a touchscreen that visitors can explore while they look out the windows from the 57th floor of Liberty One. Visitors will be able to zoom in and out of the photos and read about the city’s various landmarks. (Here’s one Panogs did in Seattle.)
The observation deck, which videographer Cory Popp previewed last week, will open to the public in the fall. It’ll cost $19 for adults and $14 for children between the ages of 3 and 11. We visited it this week — it’s still under construction and lacking air conditioning — and can vouch that videos and photos don’t do it justice. We couldn’t help but grin seeing the city laid out before us that way.
The observation deck will be operated by Montparnasse 56, a French company that operates observation decks in Paris and Berlin. This is the first time Montparnasse 56 is building an observation deck that it’s also going to operate, said Philly general manager Evan Evans, who lives in Chester Springs.
Montparnasse 56 hired Panogs to build the interactive cityscape, and they’re working with Philly celebs Mike Missanelli, artist Isaiah Zagar, DJ Cyndy Drue and Visit Philly’s Cara Schneider to create content for the map itself. They’ll focus on their areas of expertise (Missanelli will work on the sports landmarks, Zagar on arts and culture and so on), Evans said.