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Heatherwick’s ‘staircase to nowhere’ steps into New York

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The first pieces of a £115 million landmark installation, designed by Heatherwick Studio and featuring 154 intersecting flights of stairs, have arrived in New York

Dubbed The Vessel, the interactive 16-storey viewing platform will be the centrepiece of New York’s enormous £15 billion Hudson Yards regeneration, masterplanned by KPF.

The 45m-tall, beehive-like structure features a structural steel frame shipped in from Italy and finished in a polished copper colour. 

The first 10 of the eventual 75 pieces, fabricated by Cimolai in its Monfalcone factory, arrived on site this week after a 15-day journey across the Atlantic, a brief stay at the Port of Newark and a five-hour barge trip across the Hudson River.

Expected to top out at the end of this year and to open in 2018, the structure will feature 154 flights of stairs and 80 landings. A curving elevator will also be included as an alternative to the 2,500 steps.

New York

New York

Source: Image by Forbes Massie and Heatherwick Studio

The Vessel by Heatherwick Studio

The Vessel will become the centrepiece of a 2ha public square and garden – including native trees and a 60m-long fountain designed by landscape architects Nelson Byrd Woltz.

Heatherwick’s design was inspired by Indian step wells. Engineering practice AKTII has also worked on the proposals.

Thomas Heatherwick, founder of London-based Heatherwick Studio, described the arrival of the structural elements on site as ‘a special moment’.

He said: ‘As [it is] 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.


‘There are so many buildings and projects I wish I saw being made. 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.’

Stephen Ross, chairman of Hudson Yards developer Related Companies, added: ‘An extraordinary amount of work by artisans and craftsmen has gone into reaching this day and we are excited to invite New Yorkers and visitors alike to watch its rise over the upcoming months.

‘The interactive, engaging, innovative and beautiful structure embodies our city’s energy, activity and movement, and we look forward to the day when all can experience and experiment with it.’

The wider mixed-use Hudson Yards will deliver about 1,180,000m2 of development in 16 skyscrapers, including a new tower by Foster + Partners.

The project – thought to be the city’s largest since the Rockefeller Centre in 1939 – is being constructed above the 10.6ha West Side Yard, which sits at the north end of Diller Scofidio + Renfro’s High Line park. The development is expected to finish in 2023.

Site plan

Site plan

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Readers' comments (1)

  • So stairs are now interactive? It's understandable that the developers of the air rights over the Hudson Yards are keen on something eye-catching to break any feeling of monotony in the new architecture, and act as a draw, but will this be any more wondrous than Anish Kapoor's Arcelor Mittal Orbit, Heatherwick's Paddington Basin Bridge, his Garden Bridge or his King's Cross Coal Drops?
    For something that really is inspired you'd need to leave the 'Vessel' and take a short walk over to the brilliant Highline linear elevated park, and it's a shame that Heatherwick didn't think of getting the Long Island Railroad commuter trains stored underneath to rise up and loop the loop in plain sight - or maybe he did and was stopped dead in his tracks by wiser counsel.
    Actually, aren't Indian step wells a lot more interesting, and attractive?

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