Vessel (structure)

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Hudson Yards Plaza March 2019 53.jpg
Seen in March 2019, shortly after opening
General information
Town or cityNew York City
CountryUnited States
Coordinates40°45′14″N 74°00′08″W / 40.7538°N 74.0022°W / 40.7538; -74.0022Coordinates: 40°45′14″N 74°00′08″W / 40.7538°N 74.0022°W / 40.7538; -74.0022
GroundbreakingApril 2017
Topped-outDecember 2017
OpenedMarch 15, 2019
CostUS$75-200 million
Height150 ft (46 m)
Technical details
Floor count16
Design and construction
ArchitectThomas Heatherwick
Architecture firmHeatherwick Studio
Structural engineerThornton Tomasetti (Engineer Of Record) and AKT II (Design Engineer)

Vessel (TKA) is a structure and visitor attraction built as part of the Hudson Yards Redevelopment Project in Manhattan, New York City, New York. Built to plans by the British designer Thomas Heatherwick, the elaborate honeycomb-like structure rises 16 stories and consists of 154 flights of stairs, 2,500 steps, and 80 landings for visitors to climb. Vessel is the main feature of the 5-acre (2.0 ha) Hudson Yards Public Square. Funded by Hudson Yards developer Related Companies, its final cost is estimated at $200 million.

The concept of Vessel was unveiled to the public on September 14, 2016. Construction began in April 2017, with the pieces being manufactured in Italy and shipped to the United States. Vessel topped out in December 2017 with the installation of its highest piece, and it opened on March 15, 2019.

The structure's name is temporary, as indicated by the TKA abbreviation, which means "Temporarily Known As". Upon opening, Vessel received mixed reviews, with some critics praising its prominent placement within Hudson Yards, and others deriding the structure as extravagant. In its first year, Vessel was also criticized for its restrictive copyright policy regarding photographs taken of the structure, as well as its lack of accessibility for disabled visitors, both of which were later resolved.



Viewed from 11th Avenue (2019)

Vessel is a 16-story, 150-foot-tall (46 m)[1] structure of connected staircases between the buildings of Hudson Yards, located in the 5-acre (2.0 ha) Hudson Yards Public Square.[2] Designed by Thomas Heatherwick,[3] Vessel has 154 flights, 2,500 steps, and 80 landings,[3] with the total length of the stairs exceeding 1 mile (1.6 km).[4] The copper-clad steps, arranged like a jungle gym[5] and modeled after Indian stepwells,[4][6] can hold 1,000 people at a time.[3] The structure also has ramps and an elevator to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA),[2] though only three of Vessel's landings are ADA-accessible as of 2019.[7]

Vessel is 50 feet (15 m) wide at its base, expanding to 150 feet (46 m) at the apex.[3] Stephen Ross, the CEO of Hudson Yards' developer Related Companies, said that its unusual shape was intended to make the structure stand out like a "12-month Christmas tree."[2] Heatherwick said that he intends visitors to climb and explore the structure as if it were a jungle gym.[8] At the top of the structure, visitors can see the Hudson River.[4]


Vessel was designed in concert with the Hudson Yards Public Square, designed by Thomas Woltz from Nelson Byrd Woltz Landscape Architects.[9] The attached 5-acre (2 ha) public square has 28,000 plants and 225 trees,[10] located on the platform upon which Hudson Yards is built.[11] The plaza's southern side includes a canopy of trees, while the southeast entrance also contains a fountain. A "'seasonally expressive' entry garden" stands outside the entrance to the New York City Subway's 34th Street–Hudson Yards station, across from Vessel.[12] The plaza also connects to the High Line, an elevated promenade at its south end.[13]

Cost and assembly[edit]

Although Vessel had originally been slated to cost $75 million,[2] the projections were later revised to between $150[3] and $200 million.[4] Heatherwick attributed the greatly increased price tag to the complexity of building the steel pieces.[2] The pieces of Vessel were assembled in the comune of Monfalcone in Italy.[2] Ships transported the sections of the sculpture to Hudson River docks.[4]


"Vessel" was planned to be the structure's temporary name during construction, with a permanent name to be determined later.[13] After Vessel opened, Hudson Yards asked the public to give it a formal name, creating a website devoted to that effect.[14]


Beginning of construction, May 2017
Map of buildings and structures at Hudson Yards. Zoom the map and click on points for more details.

In an interview with Fortune magazine, Ross said that he "wanted to commission something transformational, monumental," which led to the concept for Vessel.[4] Ross was looking to five unnamed artists who were renowned for designing similar plazas, then asked them for in-depth proposals. He rejected all of the plans, at which point a colleague introduced Ross to Heatherwick.[2] Six weeks after they talked, Ross accepted Heatherwick's proposal immediately because it "had everything I wanted."[2] In an interview with designboom, Heatherwick said that his design for Vessel originated from a childhood experience when he "fell in love with an old discarded flight of wooden stairs outside a local building site."[6] The media first reported Heatherwick's commissioning in October 2013.[9][15]

The concept of Vessel was unveiled to the public on September 14, 2016,[4] in an event attended by hundreds of people including New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio.[3][2] Hosted by Anderson Cooper, the event featured a performance from the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater that evoked the interlocking design of Vessel's staircases.[2]

In April 2017, the first major piece of the sculpture was installed at Hudson Yards.[16] Construction started on April 18[17] with the installation of the first 10 pieces of the 75-piece structure.[18] It was projected for completion in the spring of 2019,[19] with the other 65 pieces arriving in five batches.[20] The structure topped out in December 2017.[21][22] In October 2018, it was announced that the opening of Vessel had been scheduled for March 15, 2019, and that tickets to enter the structure would become available in February.[23] By January 2019, Hudson Yards officials were soliciting public suggestions for a rename of Vessel. Though the structure had no official name, the Hudson Yards website called it the "Hudson Yards Staircase".[24] Vessel opened as scheduled on March 15, 2019.[25][26]


Vessel was criticized for its associated photo policies at the time of its opening. Hudson Yards, the owner of Vessel, claimed ownership of all pictures and videos taken of Vessel, and reserves the right to use any photos or videos taken for commercial purposes without paying royalty fees. This privileged use of photos and videos by Hudson Yards, a private company, has been criticized because Hudson Yards has benefited from $4.5 billion in tax revenue.[27] After criticism emerged about Vessel's copyright policy, Hudson Yards modified the policy so visitors would have ownership of photos of Vessel.[1][28]

After Vessel opened, the United States Department of Justice filed a complaint alleging that because of the number of separate landings within Vessel, most of the structure was not compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act, except for the portions directly outside the elevator. Furthermore, elevator stops on the fifth and seventh stories were sometimes skipped due to overcrowding concerns.[29] In December 2019, Related Companies and Vessel operator ERY Vessel LLC reached an agreement with the Department of Justice to increase accessibility to the structure by adding wheelchair lifts and retaining elevator access to all levels.[7][29][30][31]


On February 1, 2020, a 19-year-old man jumped from the sixth floor of the structure in what was said to be the first such incident involving the Vessel; he later died in the hospital.[32][33][34] The man was later identified as a former high-school rugby star from Sacred Heart University.[35]

Critical reception[edit]


Aerial video

The sculpture has received acclaim and criticism. Fortune writer Shawn Tully called Vessel "Manhattan's answer to the Eiffel Tower",[4] a sentiment also harbored by CNN reporter Tiffany Ap.[8] Elle Decor writer Kelsey Kloss compared Vessel to an M. C. Escher drawing.[5] Several commentators have referred to the structure as the Giant Shawarma.[36][37][38]

Speaking about the structure's design process, Heatherwick said, "We had to think of what could act as the role of a landmarker. Something that could help give character and particularity to the space."[39] Ted Loos of The New York Times said the sculpture, while a "stairway to nowhere" in the utilitarian sense, served as an "exclamation point" to the northern terminus of the High Line.[2] David Colon of Gothamist called Vessel "a bold addition to the city's landscape."[40] Public Art Fund president Susan Freedman liked the renderings for Vessel but called it "a leap of faith in terms of scale." She said there might be too much demand for Vessel, especially considering the structure's proximity to the High Line.[2]


Other critics reviewed Vessel negatively. New York Times architecture critic Michael Kimmelman called Vessel's exterior "gaudy" and criticized Hudson Yards more generally as a "gated community" that lacked real public space.[41] CityLab's Feargus O'Sullivan called Vessel, along with Heatherwick's other numerous billionaire-funded developments and architectural projects, "a gaudy monument to being only ever-so-slightly free."[42] Some have contrasted it negatively to Cloud Gate, also known as the Bean, in Millennium Park, Chicago, calling Vessel a "piece of junk" and an "eyesore".[43] Blair Kamin of the Chicago Tribune called it "willful and contrived".[44]

Critics also wrote about Vessel's lack of accessibility for wheelchair users, since Vessel mainly consists of stairs, with only a single elevator to connect one of the sets of landings.[45][46] Because of this, disability-rights groups protested outside the structure.[29]



  1. ^ a b Deb, Sopan (March 19, 2019). "Following Outcry, Hudson Yards Tweaks Policy Over Use of Vessel Pictures". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved March 20, 2019.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l Loos, Ted (September 14, 2016). "A $150 Million Stairway to Nowhere on the Far West Side". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved May 16, 2017.
  3. ^ a b c d e f Bockmann, Rich (September 14, 2016). "Stairway to Hudson: Related unveils $150M sculpture". The Real Deal New York. Retrieved September 14, 2016.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h Tully, Shawn (September 14, 2016). "This Monument Could Be Manhattan's Answer to the Eiffel Tower". Fortune. Retrieved November 10, 2016.
  5. ^ a b Kloss, Kelsey (September 15, 2016). "New York City's Future Landmark Is a Real-Life M.C. Escher Drawing". ELLE Decor. Retrieved May 16, 2017.
  6. ^ a b Azzarello, Nina (September 14, 2016). "thomas heatherwick unveils 'vessel' for NY's hudson yards". designboom. Retrieved November 10, 2016.
  7. ^ a b DeGregory, Priscilla; Fitz-Gibbon, Jorge (December 23, 2019). "Hudson Yards' Vessel strikes accessibility deal". New York Post. Retrieved December 27, 2019.
  8. ^ a b Ap, Tiffany (September 15, 2016). "Could this be New York's Eiffel Tower?". CNN. Retrieved November 10, 2016.
  9. ^ a b "British Artist Will Create A 'New Icon' For NYC In Hudson Yards". Curbed NY. October 29, 2013. Retrieved May 16, 2017.
  10. ^ Dunlap, David W. (July 22, 2015). "A Garden Will Grow With Fans, Concrete, Coolant and 28,000 Plants". New York Times. New York Times. Retrieved July 22, 2015.
  11. ^ "Hudson Yards developers give update on project". AM New York. August 21, 2014. Retrieved August 21, 2014.
  12. ^ "Progress Report: Hudson Yards". Chelsea Now. January 29, 2015. Archived from the original on February 8, 2015. Retrieved February 2, 2020.CS1 maint: unfit url (link)
  13. ^ a b Plitt, Amy (September 14, 2016). "First look at Hudson Yards's enormous, interactive 'public landmark'". Curbed NY. Retrieved November 10, 2016.
  14. ^ Yakas, Ben (March 21, 2019). "You Can Suggest A New Name For Hudson Yards' 'Vessel'". Gothamist. Retrieved April 7, 2019.
  15. ^ Maloney, Jennifer; Brown, Eliot (October 29, 2013). "Aiming for an Artistic 'Icon'". The Wall Street Journal. ISSN 0099-9660. Retrieved May 16, 2017.
  16. ^ "Go inside Hudson Yards as its 'Vessel' gets its groundbreaking". Curbed NY. April 18, 2017. Retrieved May 16, 2017.
  17. ^ "Construction To Begin On Hudson Yards 'Vessel'". CBS New York. April 18, 2017. Retrieved May 16, 2017.
  18. ^ Varinsky, Dana; Garfield, Leanna (April 18, 2017). "The biggest real estate development in American history will have a 15-story maze of stairwells". Business Insider. Retrieved May 16, 2017.
  19. ^ Warerkar, Tanay (August 17, 2017). "Hudson Yards's $200M 'Vessel' is on the rise". Curbed NY. Retrieved September 22, 2017.
  20. ^ Silva, Bianca (April 19, 2017). "Ten by Sea: Vessel's Vital Components Arrive at Hudson Yards". Chelsea Now. Retrieved May 19, 2017.
  21. ^ Warerkar, Tanay (December 6, 2017). "Thomas Heatherwick's 'Vessel' tops out in Hudson Yards". Curbed NY. Retrieved December 9, 2017.
  22. ^ "Heatherwick's Copper 'Vessel' Tops Out at New York's Hudson Yards". ArchDaily. December 7, 2017. Retrieved December 9, 2017.
  23. ^ Walker, Ameena (April 4, 2018). "Tracking the biggest buildings taking shape at Hudson Yards". Curbed NY. Retrieved November 25, 2018.
  24. ^ Cohen, Michelle (January 25, 2019). "Thomas Heatherwick's Hudson Yards sculpture awaits public opinion for official name". 6sqft. Retrieved January 26, 2019.
  25. ^ Fahner, Micki (March 16, 2019). "Vessel, the maze-like vertical structure, opens in NYC's Hudson Yards". NBC News. Retrieved February 2, 2020.
  26. ^ "Highly-Anticipated Hudson Yards Development Officially Opens To The Public – CBS New York". CBS New York. March 15, 2019. Retrieved March 23, 2019.
  27. ^ deMause, Neil. "Hudson Yards Has $4.5 Billion In Taxpayer Money. Will We Ever See It Again?". Gothamist. Retrieved March 20, 2019.
  28. ^ Tarny, James (March 18, 2019). "After Public Outcry, a Rewritten Photo Policy for Hudson Yards' 'Vessel'". Bloomberg. Retrieved March 20, 2019.
  29. ^ a b c Plitt, Amy (December 23, 2019). "Hudson Yards' Vessel must add 'one-of-a-kind platform lift' to improve accessibility". Curbed NY. Retrieved December 27, 2019.
  30. ^ "One-of-a-Kind Mechanism to Be Installed in the Vessel to Increase Accessibility for Individuals With Disabilities". NBC New York. December 23, 2019. Retrieved December 27, 2019.
  31. ^ "Manhattan U.S. Attorney Announces Agreement With Related Companies To Increase Accessibility Of The Vessel In Hudson Yards". December 23, 2019. Retrieved December 27, 2019.
  32. ^ Konig, Joseph; Celona, Larry (February 2, 2020). "Teen jumps to his death from the Vessel in Hudson Yards". New York Post. Retrieved February 2, 2020.
  33. ^ Quinn, Allison (February 2, 2020). "Teen Jumps to His Death From Manhattan Sculpture as Onlookers Watch". The Daily Beast. Retrieved February 2, 2020.
  34. ^ Parnell, Wes (February 2, 2020). "Teen leaps to death off Hudson Yards Vessel". New York Daily News. Retrieved February 2, 2020.
  35. ^ Celona, Larry; Sheehan, Kevin; Misdary, Rosemary (February 2, 2020). "The Vessel suicide victim identified as Peter DeSalvo, former high school rugby star". New York Post. Retrieved February 2, 2020.
  36. ^ Grabar, Henry (March 19, 2019). "New Yorkers Are Right: Hudson Yards' Big Tourist Attraction Should Forever Be Called the Shawarma". Slate Magazine. Retrieved March 20, 2019.
  37. ^ Alburger, Carolyn (March 15, 2019). "Hudson Yards $200M Art Piece Looks Like a Giant Shawarma". Eater NY. Retrieved March 20, 2019.
  38. ^ Team, Page Six (March 18, 2019). "New Hudson Yards climbable art sculpture compared to street meat". Page Six. Retrieved April 2, 2019.
  39. ^ "Heatherwick Studio's "Vessel" Will Take the Form of an Endless Stairway at New York's Hudson Yards". ArchDaily. September 15, 2016. Retrieved November 10, 2016.
  40. ^ Colon, David (September 14, 2016). "Behold The Giant $150 Million Public Art 'Vessel' Coming To Hudson Yards". Gothamist. Archived from the original on October 25, 2016. Retrieved November 10, 2016.
  41. ^ Kimmelman, Michael (March 14, 2019). "Hudson Yards Is Manhattan's Biggest, Newest, Slickest Gated Community. Is This the Neighborhood New York Deserves?". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved March 20, 2019.
  42. ^ O'Sullivan, Feargus (March 19, 2019). "Cities Deserve Better Than These Thomas Heatherwick Gimmicks". CityLab. Retrieved March 20, 2019.
  43. ^ "Chicago has the Bean. New York has a new piece of junk called the "Vessel"". ChicagoNow. March 1, 2019. Retrieved August 29, 2019.
  44. ^ Kamin, Blair [@BlairKamin] (March 15, 2019). "The Vessel ain't the Bean, not by a long shot. The Bean looks graceful, effortless; its New York counterpart, willful and contrived" (Tweet). Retrieved August 29, 2019 – via Twitter.
  45. ^ Lange, Alexandra (December 20, 2019). "New York City's two biggest design stories of 2019 are also design failures". Curbed NY. Retrieved December 27, 2019.
  46. ^ "Stair Worship: Heatherwick's Vessel". The Avery Review. March 12, 1990. Retrieved December 27, 2019.

External links[edit]