Image: Stephen Chau
Staring into the void: View from the 88th floor of the atrium of the Shanghai Grand Hyatt hotel in the Jin Mao Tower
When conceived on a grand scale, atriums (or atria) are true architectural wonders. These large, sky-lit spaces inside modern buildings often extend over several stories – and sometimes a great many more – creating airy, spacious environments. Until you look down, that is. Taking in the view from exceptionally tall examples of these central courts, a sense of light and space might well be the last thing on your mind.
Almost like a work by Escher: View of atrium from the 33rd floor in the Pan Pacific Singapore
The way atriums can soar to the top of tall buildings is a truly stunning sight to behold. Take an elevator ride up (stairs really aren’t an option here!), then peer over the side, and you’ll soon realize they can seriously affect the weak of stomach. Vertigo-inducing drops feature in the majority of the photos collected here. Indeed, for those who love thrill rides and roller coasters, this set of images may even give you a taste of the white-knuckle experiences you crave!
Our journey takes us around the world in search of the view down from the highest atriums we could find! And those with a head for heights might even get a different kick out of this post. You see, many of the dizzying perspectives are almost mesmerizing in effect, and more than a few are like peering into a near-interminable tunnel. Spellbinding stuff!
Image: Kostas Gesoulis
13. Jin Mao Tower, Shanghai
View of the atrium from the 80th floor looking down to the lobby
The key tenant in China’s Jin Mao Tower is the Shanghai Grand Hyatt, which occupies floors 53 through 87 of the soaring 1,381-foot (421 m) structure. And the centerpiece of the hotel – completed in 1999 – is undoubtedly its jaw-dropping atrium. Approximately 377 feet (115 m) in height, this barrel-vaulted, sky-lit central space is among the very tallest in the world.
Image: Thomas Ogilvie
Eighty-eight feet (27 m) in diameter and spanning more than 30 floors, the Shanghai Grand Hyatt’s atrium is lined with 28 corridors and staircases that together form a majestic spiral. Looking over the balustrade is like staring into a vortex. One writer reckoned this atrium would make an awesome setting for some memorable stunt sequence in a Bond movie – and we couldn’t agree more.
Image: Carsten Lang Jensen
12. Burj Al Arab, Dubai, UAE
Dubai’s Burj Al Arab, which opened in 1999, is home to the tallest atrium in the world. The sheer size of the space really hits home when you’re inside. As everywhere in this iconic hotel, signs of luxury are ubiquitous. And, looking up, the way in which the blue painted-undersides of the lower floors fade to green as they approach the ceiling seems to blur the distinction between inside and outside. Looking down? Well, that’s another story…
Image: Joseph Younis
Filling two-thirds of the hotel’s space, the gigantic atrium of the Burj Al Arab climbs 590 feet (180 m) into the air from the lobby, where visitors enter. The perspective from above, meanwhile, reveals the sumptuous blue carpeting and scalloped white balconies outside guests’ private suites – the smallest of which is 558 square feet (170 sq m)! So mesmerizing is the view down, the atrium almost seems to be sucking you in…
Image: Paolo Bayless
The Burj Al Arab atrium at night from third of the way up
Adding to the grandeur of this most palatial of atriums (which includes gilded pillars several stories high,) a huge jet of water shoots up 138 feet (42 m) into the open space every 30 minutes. Mind you don’t get wet if you’re taking a peek over the edge when this happens!
Image: Sandy Kemsley
11. Atlanta Marriott Marquis, Atlanta, GA, USA
Located in the Marriott Marquis in downtown Atlanta, this amazing – not to say vertigo-inducing – manmade gulf was once the world’s largest atrium. It held this title from 1985, when the Marriott Marquis was built, before eventually being topped out by Dubai’s Burj Al Arab. But while this atrium may no longer be the largest of its kind, it certainly lacks nothing in magnificence. And as well as size to compete with the best of them, it also flaunts a colorful symmetry that’s hypnotic to the eye.
Boasting a height of 470 feet (143 m), the atrium of Atlanta’s Marriott Marquis spans the full height of the building, with its two yawning vertical chambers separated by elevator shafts and crisscrossed by bridges. Needless to say, the view down from the top is not for the faint of heart.
Image: Arne Kuilman
10. Sincere House, Hong Kong
Not all vertigo-inducing atriums belong to big shiny hotels. The central court pictured here is part of a warren-like complex called Sincere House, which is situated in Hong Kong. Each door you can see apparently leads to a corridor with numerous rooms adjoining – home to households, guesthouses and even factories. With an atrium like this outside the occupants’ front doors, all we can say is we hope they have a head for heights! A jaw-dropping perspective indeed.
Image: Andrew Preston
9. Marshall Field’s, Chicago, IL, USA
Some department stores spice up their interiors with towering atriums that would make anyone gulp to look out over the balconies of the upper floors. A prime example is Chicago’s Marshall Field’s, the atrium of which has a supremely vintage look – appropriately enough for a department store that was founded in 1852.
Spanning eleven floors, the atrium in Marshall Field’s was added in 2004 as part of renovation work carried out at the time. Interestingly, it used to be an alleyway and light shaft. If it lacks a little in height compared with some of the other atriums on our list, it more than makes up for its deficiencies in pure grandeur. Sadly, Marshall Field’s was bought by Macy’s in 2005.
Image: Ken Doerr
8. Renaissance Riverside Hotel, Saigon, Vietnam
The atrium of the Renaissance Hotel in Saigon, Vietnam, is enough to induce vertigo in anybody! Yep, this straight drop down could trouble even those in possession of a super-strong stomach. There is a bar at the fourth floor before the atrium rises uninterrupted for 22 stories – straight to the top.
We certainly hope the balconies here are of an adequate height. Just looking over the edge would be enough to make dizziness kick in. Losing your balance here is not a pleasant thought…
Image: Michelle Lyles
7. Georgian Terrace Hotel, Atlanta, GA, USA
Atlanta, GA seems to be something of a hotspot when it comes to impressive atriums. Originally built in 1911, the Georgian Terrace Hotel is an older establishment that was renovated in 2001. (Incidentally, the story goes that when Gone with the Wind premiered in Atlanta in 1939, Clark Gable and Vivien Leigh graced the hotel with their presence.) As for the atrium, it rises up through 33 stories, with stomach-churning, birds’ eye views from the upper floors. Yet, dizzying as it may be, the Georgian Terrace Hotel’s atrium has a beauty and a simplicity that precludes the need for bright lights and colors.
Image: Jon Curtis
6. Park Plaza Westminster Bridge, London, UK
This sheer drop down almost makes you feel as though you might topple over into the abyss! Offering us a view down to the restaurant at the bottom from 12 floors up, this is the atrium of the Park Plaza Westminster Bridge, a hotel in London. As we can see, some of the rooms have internal windows facing onto the daunting interior space.
Image: Adrian Court
Light and airy by day, the Park Plaza’s atrium presents a different prospect at night. As this image shows, lit up in darkness the space is a kaleidoscope of strange shapes and prisms reflecting off one other. Dazzling to the eye, it’s truly an atrium for the space age.
5. New York Marriott Marquis, NY, USA
This vertiginous view comes courtesy of the New York Marriott Marquis, which opened in 1985 and is to be found in iconic Times Square. The lobby atrium is one of the hotel’s defining features, a brilliantly lit space that soars 45 stories skywards. Needless to say, the view from the top is pretty mind-boggling.
Image: Dale Chumbley
The Marriott Marquis is almost as famous for its state-of-the-art elevators as it is for its colossal atrium. Twelve of them face onto the sky-lit interior, with cabs that shoot guests and visitors up into the air at a speed of 1,000 feet (300 m) a minute. Yet, for those who brave the ascent, a treat lies in store – The View, a rooftop revolving lounge and restaurant that’s apparently a one-of-its kind in the Big Apple.
4. Lloyd’s Building, London, UK
Also known as the ‘Inside-Out Building’, the Lloyd’s building in London looks as though it was constructed using a giant child’s Meccano set. Don’t be deceived, though. Intrinsic to the building’s design is a 197-foot (60 m) atrium, the view down which isn’t for the easily frightened. Overlooked by galleries and crisscrossed by escalators lower down, the atrium allows light to enter courtesy of it massive barrel-vaulted glass roof. The upper floors of the space can only be accessed via external elevators.
3. Marina Mandarin Hotel, Singapore
Don’t look down! That’s all we can say looking down into this dazzlingly lit interior space, a showpiece of Singapore’s Marina Mandarin Hotel. With its sloping facade, the 21-floor-high atrium has a strange two-dimensional look about it – at least it does in this image, which displays the elaborately designed architectural wonder by night.
Image: Joanne Sollom
This bird’s eye view of the Marina Mandarin Hotel’s atrium during the day almost makes you feel as though you’re inside a gigantic casino slot or pinball machine! The hotel opened its doors in 1987 and was upgraded in 2005. The cost? A cool $25 million.
Image: Ian Freimuth
2. JW Marriott Grand Rapids, MI, USA
What a view! Opened in as 2007, the JW Marriott Grand Rapids hotel in Michigan has an atrium that seems designed to make those afflicted both by vertigo and claustrophobia suffer! The view through the glass is breathtaking, but when looking down, the tunnel-like prospect gives one the feeling that the 257-foot-tall (78 m) building is even higher than its 23 floors!
1. The Pan Pacific Singapore
Lit up in glittering style, the triangular-shaped atrium of the Pan Pacific Singapore is a jaw-dropper. The bank of futuristic, pod-like glass elevators blunt the atrium’s stark angles somewhat, but do nothing to halt the strange sense of falling.
Image: Alex Sigeda
This image has quite a different look from the previous photo. The colors have changed drastically in this nighttime view, with white and red glowing lights making the scene reminiscent of a landscape from Blade Runner. The Pan Pacific Singapore’s atrium spans 35 stories and was billed as the tallest atrium in Southeast Asia in 2004. It’s another beauty, that’s for sure.