‘Vessel’, the landmark Heatherwick Studio-designed structure that will form the centerpiece of New York’s Hudson Yards development, is nearing its full height. The project was unveiled in September 2016, with construction getting underway the following April. Comprising 154 interconnecting flights of stairs, the interactive structure is intended to be climbed, explored, and experienced. Once complete, the design — with its almost 2,500 individual steps and 80 landings — will offer a mile’s worth of pathway above a sprawling public garden.
Heatherwick Studio’s design comprises a geometric lattice of intersecting flights of stairs. The form of the painted steel frame rises from a 50 foot diameter base and widens at the top to 150 feet, with an underside clad with a polished copper-colored skin. ‘We saw this as a building made from staircases,’ Thomas Heatherwick spoke at the project’s unveiling. ‘There was nothing to commemorate here, and having something that creates a physical engagement creates a chemistry between us.’
‘Vessel’ will be the focal point of a public square and gardens designed by landscape architects Nelson Byrd Woltz in collaboration with Heatherwick Studio. Informed by Manhattan’s rich ecological history, the site will feature more than five acres of plazas with groves of trees, woodlands plants, perennial gardens and a 200-foot-long fountain that mirrors the flow of a river. The platform itself serves as a ventilating cover over the working rail yards below and is engineered to support large-scale plantings, while simultaneously acting as a reservoir for site storm-water management and reuse. Importantly, ‘vessel’ will also be wheelchair accessible, and is designed with a curving elevator that will ascend to the top of the structure.
Hudson Yards is being developed by related companies and Oxford Properties Group. Under construction on the far west side of Midtown Manhattan, the vast scheme is the largest private real estate development in the history of the United States and the largest development in New York City since Rockefeller Centre in 1939.