vessel rising: heatherwick studio's landmark structure takes shape in new york

vessel rising: heatherwick studio's landmark structure takes shape in new york

‘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 vessel construction
the landmark structure will form the centerpiece of new york’s hudson yards development
image © designboom (also main image)



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 told designboom at the project’s unveiling. ‘there was nothing to commemorate here, and having something that creates a physical engagement creates a chemistry between us.’ importantly, ‘vessel’ will also be wheelchair accessible, and is designed with a curving elevator that will ascend to the top of the structure.

heatherwick studio vessel construction
named  ‘vessel’, the installation is now nearing its full height
image © designboom



‘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.

heatherwick studio vessel construction
construction got underway in april 2017
image © designboom



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 center in 1939. see all of designboom’s coverage of hudson yards here, including our comprehensive round-up of the masterplan.

heatherwick studio vessel construction
the interactive structure comprises 154 interconnecting flights of stairs
image © designboom

heatherwick studio vessel construction
once complete, the design will offer a mile’s worth of accessible pathway
image © designboom

heatherwick studio vessel construction
the project includes almost 2,500 individual steps and 80 landings
image © designboom



the public can follow the project’s construction using the hashtag #vesselrising
video courtesy of hudson yards

heatherwick studio vessel construction
see designboom’s previous coverage of the project here
image courtesy of forbes massie / heatherwick studio

  • How many of the 6.8 million users of wheelchairs and users of other assistive devices will be able to “interact“ with this structure that is the centerpiece of the development in New York City Hudson Yard? The text says there will be a mile “of accessible pathway.” Not quite seeing how people with physical challenges will be included. Maybe it’s right in front of my eyes? Is there an elevator? By the way what about The growing population of seniors? Will they be able to use the structure when they are 70 or 80 years old? Just curious as to what thinking was here. As I said the solution may be right in front of my eyes I’m just not seeing it and I’m not seeing it in the text. Also it’s early morning and I still haven’t had a cuppa coffee …

    Ann Zabaldo says:
    • hi ann, thanks for pointing this out. the structure will be wheelchair accessible, and we have now updated the text accordingly. you can read thomas heatherwick’s thoughts on this topic in our interview here. philip/designboom

      philip stevens I designboom says:
  • This seems like a colossal waste of materials and energy. Tens of millions of Americans have slipped into poverty at the behest of NYC’s Wall Street financialization of everything outside of Manhatten and this is how they spend their ill gotten gains? When something like this rediculous becomes feasible then something is very wrong.

    outhereinflyover says:
  • At the bottom there should have been a glass floor so people could watch the trains on the intricate switch-work below. The original Penn Station had open areas over the tracks and glass blocks elsewhere in the floor both for viewing and to bring natural light below.

    wts says:
  • Can you tell me if this has been completed yet? Will be in New York on December 16th. Would love to see this. It looks to be an amazing structure.

    Sharon says:

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