The biggest real estate development in US history will have a puzzling centerpiece

Hudson Yards Vessel Special Events PlazaCourtesy of VisualHouse

The design for Hudson Yards' massive, interactive public centerpiece - which had previously been kept secret - was unveiled September 14.

The structure, part interconnected stairway, part tower, part art piece, will stand in the heart of the development's outdoor public space. Called Vessel, it is currently being referred to as a 'public landmark' by Hudson Yards developer Related Companies. And though that description may sound vague, it's justified - the design defies classification.

Hudson Yards, the biggest private real estate project in American history, is currently under construction on the far west side of midtown Manhattan. The $20 billion project will include residential, retail and office space and span a whopping 28 acres.

The project is the biggest undertaken in New York since Rockefeller Center was built in 1936. And, like Rockefeller Center, which features a public plaza, fountain and iconic sculpture (not to mention the world-famous ice rink that takes over in the winter), the developers of Hudson Yards are making public space a priority.

Plans for the project's outdoor area will include more than five acres of plazas and gardens designed by landscape architect Thomas Wolz. The space will connect to the top end of the High Line, the popular park on New York's former elevated train tracks.

But the most striking part of the plan is the design for Vessel, which will allow visitors to climb nearly 150 feet into the air.

Take a look at the renderings.

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Designed by Thomas Heatherwick, founder of the Heatherwick Studio in London, the Vessel consists of 154 flights of stairs, which intersect to form an almost Escher-esque lattice of infinite walkways. The structure has almost 2,500 individual steps and 80 landings. When totaled up, they create nearly a mile of pathway above the plazas and gardens below.

Designed by Thomas Heatherwick, founder of the Heatherwick Studio in London, the Vessel consists of 154 flights of stairs, which intersect to form an almost Escher-esque lattice of infinite walkways. The structure has almost 2,500 individual steps and 80 landings. When totaled up, they create nearly a mile of pathway above the plazas and gardens below.

The sculpture widens from 50 feet across at its base to 150 feet at its top, mirroring the appearance of a hive or tornado. Once it’s full of climbing visitors and tourists (which it inevitably will be when it opens in the fall of 2018), the fullness and movement will add to that motion-filled aesthetic.

The sculpture widens from 50 feet across at its base to 150 feet at its top, mirroring the appearance of a hive or tornado. Once it’s full of climbing visitors and tourists (which it inevitably will be when it opens in the fall of 2018), the fullness and movement will add to that motion-filled aesthetic.

Thomas Heatherwick said in a statement that the design was inspired by images of stepwells in India — elaborate, geometric structures with interconnected stairs that lead down to a source of water. The influence is fitting, since Hudson Yards sits near the Hudson River, and boasts views of the water from many of its planned towers.

Thomas Heatherwick said in a statement that the design was inspired by images of stepwells in India — elaborate, geometric structures with interconnected stairs that lead down to a source of water. The influence is fitting, since Hudson Yards sits near the Hudson River, and boasts views of the water from many of its planned towers.

“In a city full of eye-catching structures, our first thought was that it shouldn’t just be something to look at. Instead we wanted to make something that everybody could use, touch, relate to,” Heatherwick wrote in a statement.

“In a city full of eye-catching structures, our first thought was that it shouldn’t just be something to look at. Instead we wanted to make something that everybody could use, touch, relate to,” Heatherwick wrote in a statement.

Beyond Heatherwick's new ‘landmark,’ the public space will feature groves of trees and plants, boasting more than 28,000 species. There will also be a 200-foot-long fountain, pedestrian paths, seating walls, and open squares with tables.

Beyond Heatherwick's new ‘landmark,’ the public space will feature groves of trees and plants, boasting more than 28,000 species. There will also be a 200-foot-long fountain, pedestrian paths, seating walls, and open squares with tables.

And let us not forget that all of this — including the Vessel and the 16 planned skyscrapers in the development — will live on top of a high-tech platform built above a working rail yard.

And let us not forget that all of this — including the Vessel and the 16 planned skyscrapers in the development — will live on top of a high-tech platform built above a working rail yard.
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