Vessel is a larger-than-life artwork that offers a new way to engage with the world's greatest city. Rather than a place, Vessel is an experience that's interactive and unique. It's the eye-catching centerpiece of the Hudson Yards development. But what on earth is it?!
Vessel is a sculpture you can walk around in. Conceived by British designer, Thomas Heatherwick, Vessel is the standout attraction of the epic development that has taken over the Midtown westside of Manhattan.
Think of Vessel as a giant honeycomb basket but instead of being made of wax it's made of interlinked steel staircases. 154 staircases to be exact, made up of 2,500 individual steps across 15 storeys with 80 landings. In all, Vessel weighs 600 tonnes.
The idea is that people will clamber up and down these staircases seeking the reward of a never-before-storiesseen view of New York on each landing. Vessel's specs are impressive. The hexagonal base of the structure is 50 feet across. This widens to a top layer that's 150 feet across. Once completed, Vessel will hold 1,000 people at a time. Imagine the size of the Queen bee sitting inside that honeycomb basket.
The Heatherwick Studios team designed Vessel in such a way that each layer could be built in segments. The bronzed-steel and concrete pieces were fabricated in a factory in Monfalcone, Itay. Once shipped to New York, these segments were slotted together like a giant 3D jigsaw puzzle
When completed, Vessel will feature transparent glass guardrails for safety and copper-colored steel cladding for aesthetics. A spacious 5-acre public plaza and inviting gardens will surround Vessel. The gardens will feature perennial plants, a 200-foot fountain, and groves of new trees. For the best view of the plaza and gardens, visitors are advised to, you guessed it, climb Vessel!
New York has no shortage of eye-catching buildings and structures. Heatherwick knew he wanted Vessel to be different, to stand out. The best way he could think of was to make the structure interactive. Instead of gawping at Vessel from the top of sightseeing tour bus, visitors are encouraged to explore it up close. Heatherwick has also shared his intention to give visitors to the Vessel a workout.
“New Yorkers have a fitness thing”, he said in the NY Times.
Happily, there will be an elevator for anyone who is unable to climb Vessel.
The inspiration behind Vessel included a simple wooden staircase. Heatherwick saw the staircase in an abandoned building and was struck by the strangeness of a steps that led to nowhere. Heatherwick has also cited Indian Stairwells, jungle jims and Busby Berkeley musicals with lots of steps as influences.
Vessel also has a clear connection to the endless stairs images produced by Dutch artist, M.C. Escher in the 1950s and 60s. Whether you find these images beguiling or disturbing, you can't deny they're out of the ordinary. The same can be said of Vessel.
Even in its current unfinished state, Vessel looks like something from a science fiction film. Heatherwick's main goal is to lift people up above ground level to give them a view of the city that's new and fresh.
This is the power of the high line, Heatherwick says, to give a “changed perspective on the world.”
Another great question! If Vessel is a free public art installation, who is footing the bill? The answer is Stephen Ross, the infamous billionaire property developer who owns Hudson Yards. Hudson Yards is now the largest private real estate development in US history. Ross owns and heads the company, Related and owns football team, the Miami Dolphins.
When completed, the Hudson Yard complex will include residential space, office space, and a mall. But if Ross was going to attract tourists to his new complex he knew he needed something big, something monumental. He chose Vessel. Some of Ross's associates have questioned Vessel's size and purpose but Ross is adamant. Ross's “baby” as he calls it will become the icon for New York, just like the Eiffel Tower is in Paris.
That's the $200m question! Originally proposed at a cost of $75m, Vessel's price tag has risen to a staggering $200m and its construction has faced delays. The project broke ground on April 18th, 2017 and reached its full height in December 2017. Instagram lit up last December when New York locals and visitors visited the site of Hudson Yards just to get a snap of Vessel at its full height. Vessel is almost as wide as it is tall which means it fits very nicely into Instagram's square frame.
Yet those of us who can't wait to climb to the top of Vessel still have a wait ahead of us. Other developments by Heatherwick Studios in New York have come up against delays and disappointments. Heatherwick was hired to carry out a dramatic overhaul of the New York Philharmonic concert hall in 2016 but plans were scrapped at the last minute. Plans for Pier 55, dubbed a “treasure island park on the Hudson River” also ended up in the trash after the project faced a legal challenge in 2017.
Right now, the Vessel NYC opening date is vague – “Spring of 2019”.
Hudson Yards is the largest development in New York since Rockefeller Center was built in the 1930s. And the two are in direct competition. Stephen Ross, the developer behind Hudson Yards told the NYT,
The most important place in New York is Rockefeller Center during Christmas time…I wanted to have a 12-month Christmas tree.
Vessel isn't the only reason to visit Hudson Yards, though. The development is located between the Chelsea neighborhood of Manhattan and the Midtown westside. For locals, Hudson Yards is between 10th and 12th avenues and West 30th to West 34th Street. Formerly the site of a huge open rail yard, Hudson Yards has its own subway station on the No. 7 line.
13 of Hudson Yards 16 planned structures sit on a platform built over a huge storage facility owned by the railways, the West Side Yard. This platform is part of a total of 18 million square feet of commercial and retail spaces. Hudson Yards construction began in 2012 and the whole thing should be completed by 2024.
There will be around 100 stores at Hudson Yards when it opens in a vast Hudson Yard Mall. Stores will include Cartier, Urban Decay and New York's first Neiman Marcus. A Thomas Keller restaurant is also planned. It's not clear when the Hudson Yard Mall opening will take place but it's sure to be an event worth dusting the credit card off for.
When completed Hudson Yard will also have around 4,000 residences, the first in that part of the city, a hotel and a public school. The Shed at Hudson Yards also looks impressive. Claiming to be New York's first multi-arts center designed to commission, produce, and present all types of performing arts, visual arts, and popular culture, The Shed will open in 2019.
Only a fool would step out on the streets of New York with no idea how to get their destination. In New York, trip planning is essential! Luckily, the creators of Hudson Yard have paid attention to logistics and made it as easy as possible for you to get to and from their attractions. Hudson Yards is connected to the commuter rail service, the subway, and the West Side highway.
The Hudson Yard website has a map and more detailed information to help you plan your route.
There are dozens of New York hop-on, hop-off bus tours operating in the city. Keep an eye on these tours as they're sure to add Hudson Yards to their tour itinerary soon!
You can also get attraction tickets and rail/bus tickets at a lower price if you book through one of New York's sightseeing tour operators.
Once it opens, you're not going to be the only person who wants to climb the hundreds of steps to the top of Vessel. Your only hope for being one of the first people to reach Vessel's unique observation desk is to pre-book tickets.
Early-booking is already open so do it now! Go to the Hudson Yard website and sign up for an advanced place to ensure you're the first to know when the ticketing opens up. Tickets with time slots will be available to pre-book in February 2019, ahead of Vessel's scheduled “spring 2019” opening.
While you're getting organized and figuring out what to do on your next New York trip, check out this list of free things to do in New York and our take on the New York Pass vs the New York City Pass.
The Mid-town westside/Chelsea area of the city has a lot to offer the intrepid explorer. Once you've had your fill of the endless staircases of Vessel and taken in its unique views of the city, you must explore the neighborhood. These are a few of the notable attractions just a hop, skip and jump from Hudson Yards.
Chelsea Art Galleries
Chelsea has long been known as an artistic center in New York. The heyday of the 1960s when cultural icons like Janis Joplin, Patti Smith and Andy Warhol called Chelsea home is long gone. But in recent years the neighborhood has enjoyed a creative renaissance. There are more than 350 art galleries in Chelsea including the Gagosian Gallery, David Zwirner and Matthew Marks. The Whitney Museum of American Art moved to Chelsea in 2015 into a new building designed by Renzo Piano. The new Whitney is located on the southern end of the High Line, focuses on work from the past fifty years and is well worth a visit.
Speaking of the High Line, it's worth walking along the High Line itself. Opened to the public in 2009, the High Line is a gorgeous elevated parkway that has opened up a former freight line to the public. The High Line is 1.5 miles in length and sits 30 feet above street level. The wild plants growing on the High Line are the same as would have grown there before human development. As a result, the High Line has an abandoned feel that offers views of the city and the Hudson Yard development that you can't get anywhere else.
Nearby Chelsea, West Chelsea, and Hell's Kitchen are all home to innovative restaurants and bars. Whether you're looking for the chic dining New York does so well or somewhere informal you and the kids can grab a burger, these neighborhoods have it all. Death Avenue Brewing Company is worth stopping by for a beer and the indoor Chelsea Market is a great place for a bite to eat.
The kind folks at Hudson Yards have come up with their own Hudson Yard Field Guide that offers practical info on all the businesses, restaurants and pubs in the new west side. Download it here.
Well, that's about everything! Vessel NVY opening will take place in Spring 2019. If you make it, check back in here and let us know what you think!
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