For London-based Heatherwick Studio, designing the centerpiece of Hudson Yards—one of the largest real estate developments in America that has transformed a former rail yard in Manhattan’s Upper West Side—presented the opportunity to create a large-scale expression of the human experience.
THE VESSEL, A SCULPTURE IN THE HEART OF HUDSON YARDS, WAS CONCEIVED AS AN INFRASTRUCTURE TO FOSTER AND SUPPORT SOCIAL ENGAGEMENT VIA A SERIES OF STAIRS AND PLATFORMS. ITS BROADER MISSION MAKES IT A FORM FOR THE FUTURE
Soaring an astounding 16 stories and boasting a beehive-like design, the company’s Vessel might have been a bit of a Trojan horse were it not so thoughtfully conceived. What looks like a transplant from the future in fact nods to places of congregation in cities across the New World and Old, including Rome, where the Spanish Steps served as a point of reference for the sculpture, as did traditional Indian stepwells.
As an interactive art piece in the 21st century, however, the Vessel takes shape as an entirely new public offering: a circular, bronzed-steel and concrete climbing frame with a labyrinth of staircases and viewing platforms fostering engagement between social and physical environments.
According to Heatherwick, the company tapered the parameters of the project, intending it to be “a memorable single object” rather than a dispersion of objects throughout the space. So what might have been an “inert, static sculpture” is instead infrastructure designed to stimulate “activity and participation” among users.
PHOTOGRAPHS: COURTESY OF HEATHERWICK STUDIO
Manhattan, New York