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SMELL: The fragrance of One World Observatory



Some might not even notice it at first: a floral scent that wafts through the lobby of One World Observatory. 


According to a recent New York Times article, the scent, called “One World,” was designed by fragrance manufacturer to evoke trees native to New York City: to ground the tallest building in the city to the earth 1,700 feet below, from behind hermetically sealed panoramic glass windows.


I decided to get perspective on the scent from those who spend all day surrounded by it. First I talked to Michael, a security guard posted at the bottom of the elevator bank. “I guess it’s supposed to evoke New York?” he said, wrinkling his nose. “No, I’m not a fan. It’s a little much, to tell you the truth.”


Citrus notes weave in as you proceed down a screen-lined hallway and through a tunnel carved through the bedrock supporting the 104-story tower.


At the top of the elevator, as you make your through a gaggle of tour guides hawking the “One World Explorer iPad “upgrade experience, there are hints of dental office.


Near the café, the smell mingles with that of coffee and reheated pizza. A food service worker wafts a paper plate over a grill of spinning hot dogs, sending curlings of meaty steam into the One World mist.

In the gift shop, where two women in sun hats fondled sweatshirt sleeves. the smell acquired a hint of dryer lint. Three women turned from the view to debate ordering an Uber to go to the night’s reservation at Cipriani.

When I asked if he’d noticed a smell in the air, a security guard name Kareem told me, “I don’t want to call it a ‘new car smell,’ but to me I guess it smells new, clean. It’s an office smell—like, to help with the experience?” The scent is diffused through the air-conditioning vents around the observatory.


Dani, a tour ambassador in a red vest, pressed her lips closed when I asked her about the scent. “We’re not allowed to talk about it.”




Sense & the City is a monthly blog exploring the hidden corners of New York City. Each month’s post is devoted to one of the five senses. Receive daily sensory impressions via Instagram @senseandthecity.

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