Vessel is a public structure and landmark that is under construction as part of the Hudson Yards Redevelopment Project in Manhattan, New York City. The concept for Vessel was revealed in 2016. Construction started in April 2017 and the structure topped out in December 2017.
The elaborate honeycomb-like structure rises 16 stories and consists of 154 flights of stairs, 2,500 steps, and 80 landings that visitors would be able to climb. Designed by the British architect Thomas Heatherwick, Vessel will be the main feature of the 5-acre (2.0 ha) Hudson Yards Public Square once the structure is opened to the public on March 15, 2019. It is expected to have a final cost of $200 million.
Vessel is a 16-story structure of connected staircases between the buildings of Hudson Yards, located in the 5-acre (2.0 ha) Hudson Yards Public Square. Designed by Thomas Heatherwick, Vessel has 154 flights, 2,500 steps, and 80 landings that stretch from its 50-foot-wide (15 m) base to its 150-foot-wide (46 m) apex, with the total length of the stairs exceeding 1 mile (1.6 km). The structure also has ramps for compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990. Stephen Ross, the CEO of Hudson Yards' developer Related Companies, said that Vessel's unusual shape was intended to make Vessel stand out like a "12-month Christmas tree." The copper-clad steps, arranged like a jungle gym and modeled after Indian stepwells, would be able to hold up to 1,000 people at a time. Heatherwick said that he intends for visitors to climb and explore the structure as if it were an actual jungle gym. At the top of the structure, visitors could have views of the Hudson River coastline.
Vessel is being designed in conjunction with the Hudson Yards Public Square, designed by Thomas Woltz from Nelson Byrd Woltz Landscape Architects. The attached 5-acre (2 ha) public square has 28,000 plants and 225 trees, located on the platform upon which Hudson Yards is built. The plaza's southern side is slated to have a canopy of trees. The southeast entrance is designed to contain a fountain as well. A "'seasonally expressive' entry garden" is meant for the 34th Street–Hudson Yards station's subway entrance at 33rd Street. The plaza is also designed to connect the High Line promenade.
Although Vessel had originally been slated to cost $75 million, the projections were later revised to between $150 and $200 million. Heatherwick attributed the greatly increased price tag to the complexity of building the steel pieces. The pieces of Vessel are being assembled in the commune of Monfalcone in Italy. From there, ships transport the sections of the sculpture to the Hudson River docks.
It was planned that "Vessel" would be the structure's temporary name during construction, and that a permanent name would be determined later.
In an interview with Fortune magazine, Ross said that he "wanted to commission something transformational, monumental," which led to the concept for Vessel. 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. Six weeks after they talked, Ross accepted Heatherwick's proposal immediately because Heatherwick's plan "had everything I wanted." 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." The media first reported Heatherwick's commissioning in October 2013.
The concept of Vessel was unveiled to the public on September 14, 2016, in an event attended by hundreds of people including New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio. The unveiling event, which was hosted by Anderson Cooper, featured a performance from the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater that evoked the interlocking design of Vessel's staircases.
In April 2017, the first major piece of the sculpture was installed at Hudson Yards. Construction started on April 18 with the installation of the first 10 pieces of the 75-piece structure. It was projected for completion in the spring of 2019, with the other 65 pieces arriving in five batches. The structure topped out in December 2017. 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.
The sculpture received positive acclaim upon its unveiling. Fortune called Vessel "Manhattan's answer to the Eiffel Tower", a sentiment echoed by CNN. Elle Decor compared Vessel to an M. C. Escher drawing. The New York Times stated that the sculpture, while a "stairway to nowhere" in the utilitarian sense, served as an "exclamation point" to the northern terminus of the High Line Park. Gothamist called Vessel "a bold addition to the city's landscape." Speaking about the structure's design process, Heatherwick stated, "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."
Public Art Fund president Susan Freedman liked the renderings for Vessel but called it "a leap of faith in terms of scale.” She stated that there might be too much demand for Vessel, especially considering the structure's proximity to the High Line.
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