Less than three years after revealing plans for the showstopping centerpiece of New York City’s Hudson Yards, Thomas Heatherwick‘s Vessel is officially open to the public. Rising up like a giant honeycomb, this Escher-like structure is an eye-catching piece of architecture that is sure to become one of Manhattan’s iconic monuments.
Composed of 154 intricately interwoven staircases, Vessel rises up 150 feet and when populated by pedestrians it really does appear like a hive of activity. As of March 15, 2019, the public is able to book free tickets to visit Heatherwick’s masterpiece, which serves as a beacon of this newly created neighborhood on Manhattan’s west side. The big reveal is the first of many steps in making Hudson Yards a new shopping and dining destination in the city. By summer, an outdoor space that will contain over 5 acres of gardens will be fully planted with over 28,000 plants and mature trees. Eventually, the area will also connect to the iconic High Line.
It’s an impressive start for Hudson Yards, which is the largest private real estate development in America. Not since Rockefeller Center was built in the 1930s has New York seen a development so grand. In this sense, Vessel feels right at home with these monuments. With its shiny copper reflecting the urban landscape, Vessel is a thoroughly contemporary design based on historic principals. In fact, Heatherwick has stated that the entire project was inspired by the form of Indian stepwells.
For the renowned British architect, it was the opportunity to design something that he’d never again have the chance to create. “People often ask us, what is this for? Is it a viewing platform? Where are you looking to?” he shared with journalists ahead of the opening tour. “It’s not a building, it’s not a sculpture, it’s not an artwork, and yet it has scale and relevance to all of those typologies… In a way, we’re thinking of this as a piece of furniture. Its ongoing use will evolve, quite naturally.”
Given its unclassifiable status, Vessel isn’t listed under the “Building” section of the Heatherwick website; instead, it’s simply categorized as a “Space.” With its impressive sculptural forms, the design certainly curates the entire area, setting up Hudson Yards as an elegant, modern space filled with creativity. While visitors will have incredible views looking out over the Hudson River, the real interest is when one looks inward at the sloping steps that weave their way to the top. In this way, Heatherwick not only connects us structurally but also visually.