Last edited 15 Sep 2016

Vessel, New York

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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?”

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Images and content courtesy of Forbes Massie-Heatherwick Studio.

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