We recently came across Thomas Heatherwick’s “Vessel”, originally unveiled in back in the fall, the centerpiece of the Hudson Yards Public Square and Gardens. His proposal is for a 150-foot-talll and mark inspired by Indian step wells consisting of 154 interconnecting flights of stairs with over 80landings. Aesthetically it is reminiscent of a beehive, with the honeycomb pattern of the stairs and the angle of its shape that goes from a 50 foot diameter at the bottom to a 150 diameter at the top.
Referencing the wildly popular High Line, Heatherwick intended this structure to lift up NewYorkers and visitors from around the world, in order to give them a new view of the city and each other.As they ascend the over 2,500 stairs to the very top, there are landings along the way so that visitors can stop and take notice of how their perspectives change along the journey. There is also a glass elevator for those unable or unwilling to make the trek to the top. Heatherwick describes how this project was an opportunity to create a free public landmark for all New Yorkers to enjoy, which is an admirable intention. Arguably he might achieve his goal through creating a beautiful sculpture from the ground level and a viewing platform at the top accessible by the elevator, but much of the experience of the“Vessel” is unattainable for a large portion of the population. The experience of the moving up through the Vessel can’t be achieved by anyone who has mobility issues, or even anyone other than those who are in the best of shape, without benches or places to rest on the landings other than the stairs itself. This structure neglects the elderly, a sizeable chunk of the population, by creating a monument that theycannot access. The beauty of Heatherwick’s narrative will be lost on many of its future visitors who opt to travel via the elevator, and it will be interesting to see if it is used in its intended fashion. We look forward to seeing how this structure is received by the public once it is completed!
Images courtesy of Heatherwick.