The 45.7m-high Escher-esque structure stands at the centre of the new Hudson Yards development
Designed so as not to be overwhelmed by the surrounding architecture, Vessel – described by Heatherwick Studio as both ’centrepiece and meeting place’ – is 16 storeys high with 154 interconnecting flights of stairs, 80 landings and 2,465 steps. It is the central feature of the main public square in Hudson Yards, which is being built on a former railyard on Manhattan’s West Side.
Photo vessel interior 3 courtesy of getty images
Source: Getty Images
The design was inspired in part by public spaces such as the Spanish Steps in Rome and structures such as traditional Indian stepwells, with the three-dimensional lattice of its structure offering more than a mile of routes.
The 75 huge steel components of the structure were produced in Venice by specialist fabricator Cimolai, before being transported and assembled on site. The raw welded steel of this structure is left exposed, while the underside of the staircases is clad in a copper-toned PVD stainless steel.
Vessel is intended to be a structure ’that encourages activity and participation’ according to the practice – while clearly offering prime Instragram opportunities too. The structure is free to climb, but visitors need to book ahead for timed access.
Photo vessel exterior courtesy of michael moran for related oxford
Source: Michael Moran
What was exciting about this project was that the brief was non-prescriptive about typology or outcome. There was just the key requirement to create a centre-point. Rather than making a passive object, we felt it was essential to make a social heart to galvanise the space and gather people – to bring a visible human scale to the centre of Hudson Yards.
We looked at examples of public space such as Piazza del Campo in Siena, the Spanish Steps in Rome but also at the social space created by stepwells in Rajasthan in India – which have a ceremonial and meditative aspect. All these inputs led to us thinking about three-dimensional public space. Unlike a conventional building, the footprint is smaller at its base and wider at the top – accordingly, there is more space to explore the higher up you go.
Entirely made up of stairs and landings, each junction provides multiple possible routes that lead to spaces with a unique orientation and view. No two routes are the same, and the project truly comes to life when people are moving around it.
The painted structural steel form makes reference to the bridges of Manhattan. The joints and bolted connections show the fabricated nature like a giant Meccano kit. There is a contrast in the materials from when you are looking up and when you are on the structure looking down. From below, the soffits of the structure are clad in warm copper-coloured PVD stainless steel, which offer a reflection of the space and the people around you. When on the project, the landings and surfaces of the stairs are made from an urban palette of concrete pavers – evoking the feeling of lifted sidewalks.
The core purpose of Vessel is to facilitate the human activity of socialisation. We’re hugely excited in the open-ended potential of how it could be used and experienced. Whether that be performance, dance, exercise, even as an auditorium for watching an event in the space below. Our hope is that New Yorkers and visitors embrace the project and make it their own.
Stuart Wood, partner and group leader, Heatherwick Studio
8 exploded axo
Start on site 2015
Completion March 2019
Gross floor area 2,210m²
Procurement route Commission
Construction cost Undisclosed
Architect Heatherwick Studio
Architect of record KPF Associates
Client Related, Oxford Properties Group
Design engineer AKTII
Structural engineer Thornton Tomasetti
QS Related, Oxford Properties Group
Landscape consultant Nelson Byrd Woltz
Project manager Tisham
Steel contractor Cimolai
Lift technologies Cimolai Technologies
Cladding contractor Permasteelia
Crowd analysis Arup
Lighting designer L’Observateur
CAD software used Rhino, Revit