Vessel by Heatherwick Studio is a new type of public landmark – a 16-storey circular climbing frame, with 2,465 steps, 80 landings and views across the Hudson River and Manhattan.
It is the central feature of the main public square in the Hudson Yards development, one of the largest real estate projects in American history, which is transforming a former rail yard in Manhattan’s Upper West Side into a completely new neighbourhood, with more than five acres of new public spaces and gardens.
Heatherwick Studio was asked to design a centrepiece for Hudson Yards, something that would welcome visitors into the heart of the district and create a new place to meet in Manhattan. Part of the challenge was to create something memorable that would not be overwhelmed by the surrounding cluster of towers, or the scale of the new public space above the train platform.
Exploring different possibilities, the team started to narrow the parameters: it should be a memorable single object, not a series of objects dispersed throughout the space; rather than an inert, static sculpture, it should be a social encounter, which encourages activity and participation – it should be fun.
Looking at the places in cities where people naturally congregate, the underlying infrastructure is often simple – a
staircase, for example, such as the famous Spanish Steps in Rome. Researching this typology further, the studio
explored traditional Indian stepwells; these have an intricate network of stone stairs, so that as the water level in the
reservoir changes, the surface is still accessible. However, like an amphitheatre, the focus of a well is its centre, and
the studio wanted to create an experience that was outward as well as inward-looking.
Vessel is the landmark of the Hudson Yards development, one of the largest real estate projects in American history.
Every element of the Vessel is bespoke, from the joints to the handrails. The 75 huge steel components were produced in Venice by specialist fabricator Cimolai, before being brought from Italy in six shipments, carried across the Hudson River by barge, and assembled on site in a process that took three years. Yet despite the size of the Vessel, it has been designed at a human scale, to be climbed, explored and enjoyed by New Yorkers and visitors – a simple structure, animated by people and the reflections of the square beneath.
Facts & Credits
Project Name Vessel
Location Hudson Yards, New York
Completion date March 2019
Area / height 2,210 square metres / 45.7 metres
Design Heatherwick Studio
Design Director Thomas Heatherwick
Group Leader Stuart Wood
Project Leader Laurence Dudeney
Charlotte Bovis, Einar Blixhavn, Antoine van Erp, Felipe Escudero, Thomas Farmer, Steven Howson, Jessica In, Nilufer Kocabas, Panagiota Kotsovinou, Barbara Lavickova, Alexander Laing, Elli Liverakou, Pippa Murphy, Luke Plumbley, Ivan Ucros Polley, Daniel Portilla, Jeff Powers, Matthew Pratt, Peter Romvári, Ville Saarikoski, Takashi Tsurumaki
Client Related, Oxford Properties Group
Design Engineers AKTII
Structural Engineers Thornton Tomasetti
Landscape Architects Nelson Byrd Woltz
Architect of Record KPF Associates
Steel Contractor Cimolai
Lift Contractor Cimolai Technologies
Cladding Contractor Permasteelisa
Crowd Analysis ARUP
Lighting Designers L’Observatoire International
Project Management Tisham