opening for the third time at hudson yards


Now set to reopen once more, New York City‘s 150-foot, honeycomb-like structure The Vessel was designed by Heatherwick Studio, and has been a point of controversy since its first opening in March 2019. Its ‘alien’ form has been met with mixed reactions, at once being described as Escher-esque with its dizzying maze of stairs, and being likened to a larger-than-life shawarma. Thomas Heatherwick intended for the place to be a public climbing experience, inviting visitors to ascend more than 2,500 steps to experience a spiraling, ever-changing view of the city.


In a short film released upon the project’s opening, Heatherwick described it as an amphitheater for the people, and revisited precedents including the complex stepwells of India with their criss-crossing stairways. Regardless of its varied critiques by New Yorkers, the intricate network of staircases and landings quickly became a popular tourist destination in the growing neighborhood.


But it wasn’t aesthetic qualms which caused the attraction’s closings. Four young people under the age of 25 have committed suicide from The Vessel during its short run. This time around, Hudson Yards developer Related Companies is even more optimistic as physical safety barriers will be put in place — a measure encouraged by the community in the past. According to a spokesperson for the developer, these barriers include ‘cut-resistant’ steel-mesh nets on ‘several’ of its twisting stairways and platforms. The structure’s top level will be closed to visitors.

vessel reopen new york
image by Michael Moran for Related-Oxford | thumb © Jordan McAuley



the vessel’s timeline


Unfortunately, The Vessel’s open design by Heatherwick Studio presented safety challenges. In January 2021, the structure was closed after a third suicide in less than a year. It reopened in May 2021 with new measures in place to deter self-harm attempts — this meant that visitors were only be permitted in pairs or groups in a bid to increase safety. Notably, after months of consultation with experts, developers had decided against raising the height of the barriers. Although solo visits were banned, it was a teen visiting with his family that became the fourth to commit suicide. Thus, these measures proved insufficient and The Vessel was closed again in August 2021. Related Companies has not yet announced an exact opening date, but is looking forward to welcoming visitors later this year.

vessel reopen new york
image courtesy Related-Oxford



The news that The Vessel will reopen in New York has been met with mixed reactions. Some are hopeful that the new safety measures will ensure that it will remain an enjoyable experience, secure for all visitors. Others remain concerned about the ethics of reopening a structure that has been associated with multiple suicides.


Chair of the Manhattan community board Jessica Chait comments: ‘While we think it took Related four lives too many to make these physical adjustments, these are the changes we requested, which will allow for prioritizing the safety of everyone who visits the Vessel.


Of course, The Vessel is not unique. It’s important to remember that suicide can occur at any place. This attraction is just one example of a high place that has been involved in suicides. Bridges and tall buildings are also unfortunately common locations, which generally can not be closed to the public. Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) shows that approximately 1,660 deaths by suicide occurred in New York State in 2021.

the vessel gets another try: new york landmark to reopen with steel mesh netting
image by Michael Moran for Related-Oxford


project info:


project title: The Vessel

architecture: Heatherwick Studio

location: Hudson Yards, New York, NY

developer: Related Companies

completion: March 2019