Last edited 15 Jun 2017

Vessel, New York



[edit] Designs

In September 2016, British architect-designer Thomas Heatherwick unveiled the first renderings of a new public monument for New York City.

Vessel is a sculpture standing 15-storeys high, consisting of 154 intricately interconnecting flights of stairs. Sitting in a public plaza and gardens, it will form the centrepiece of west Manhattan’s new Hudson Yards development, the city’s largest urban development since the Rockefeller Center in the 1930s.


Heatherwick said Vessel’s lattice was inspired by the geometries of Indian stepwells, and is made up of almost 2,500 individual steps and 80 landings. Weighing 600 tons, each layer of the hexagonal structure becomes wider, from a 15 m (50 ft) diameter at the base to 46 m (150 ft) at the top, forming a conical shape.

The structural steel frame will be clad in a polished copper-coloured steel skin, providing warped reflections of the plaza below.


Vessel’s cost has escalated from the original budget of $75m to an estimate of $150m. Some of the elements are currently under construction in Italy but are not to be assembled on site until 2017.


Heatherwick said: “My studio was commissioned to design a centrepiece for an unusual new piece of land in New York. In a city full of eye-catching structures, our first thought was that it shouldn’t just be something to look at. Instead we wanted to make something that everybody could use, touch, relate to.

“When I was a student, I fell in love with an old discarded flight of wooden stairs outside a local building site. It caught my imagination and I loved that is was part furniture and part infrastructure. You could climb up stairs, jump on them, dance on them, get tired on them and then plonk yourself down on them.

“Years later, suddenly here was an opportunity to make a new kind of landmark for Hudson Yards. We wondered whether it could be built entirely from steps and landings?”


[edit] Construction

In April 2017, construction officially began on Vessel. 75 individual units are to be prefabricated by Cimolai S.p.A in their Italian facility before being shipped to New York and assembled on site.

Ten pieces were already in New York as of April, with the remainders being scheduled to arrive and be assembled over the course of 2017.

Vessel is anticipated to top out by the end of 2017, well ahead of its scheduled opening along with the whole Public Square and Gardens in autumn of 2018. The garden’s first 40 trees will be planted later this year.

Upon completion, the public square will house more than 8,000 plants and 200 mature trees, including a wide variety of woodland plants and perennial gardens, as well as a 200 ft-long fountain that will mirror the flow of a river.

Thomas Heatherwick said:

“This is a special moment as Vessel begins being assembled at Hudson Yards ... As one of the most complex and ambitious pieces of steelwork ever made, the next months will provide a one-off opportunity to see a future extraordinary structure emerge for New York. So, for those who are interested, I hope it will turn out to have been worth heading up onto the High Line to catch a glimpse of the complex geometry being pieced together like an incredible jigsaw puzzle.”

Images and content courtesy of Forbes Massie-Heatherwick Studio.

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