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Meet The Vessel, Hudson Yards’ Centerpiece

Mayor Bill de BlasioRelated Cos chairman and founder Stephen Ross, designer Thomas Heatherwick, landscape architect Thomas Woltz and hundreds of commercial real estate players gathered yesterday to witness the unveiling of Hudson Yards’ centerpiece: the Vessel.


Comprising 154 interconnected flights of stairs, 2,500 steps and 80 landings, the landmark will be made of a structural painted steel frame, with underside surfaces covered by a polished copper-colored steel skin.


As it rises towards the sky, the landmark will expand from a 50-foot diameter base to a 150-foot diameter roof. It’s currently being built by one of the best steel firms in the world, which is also crafting Hudson Yard’s “Shed.”


Heatherwick told the crowd that the design was inspired by ancient Indian stairwells, which he believes create a “meditative rhythm,” a flight of stairs he found in a dumpster as an art student, to his first visit to NYC in the 1980s, where he was baffled by business people wearing chunky, white sneakers with their suits.

But the stairs, he says, aren’t just there for exercise, but as a tool to allow New Yorkers to gain different perspectives. Thomas also designed the London Olympics' torch and is working on Lincoln Center’s David Geffen HallPier 55 and the new Google HQ in Mountainview, CA.

Related Chairman Stephen Ross and designer Thomas Heatherwick at "The Vessel's" unveiling at Hudson Yards

Stephen echoed this, saying the Vessel was not only “engaging, relatable, active, innovative and beautiful,” but also achieved Related’s goal of an endlessly engaging centerpiece that made a statement and impacted human behavior.

Telling Anderson Cooper that Hudson Yards was NYC’s “new center of gravity,” Stephen called the Vessel a “365-day Christmas tree,” in reference to Rockefeller Center’s massive winter ornament.

Stephen and Heatherwick both joked that it's up to New Yorkers to determine the structure’s true use (Heatherwick suggested a Slinky tournament) and true name (our bet’s on “The Honeycomb”). 


The Vessel will rise in the center of the five-acre Hudson Yard’s Public Square and Garden, which was designed by the two Thomases and will feature several plazas and gardens connecting to the High Line and the Hudson Park & Boulevard.

Extending from Gansevoort Street to Times Square, the public space network will be the largest developed in Manhattan since Central Park, and will continue to expand when Related and Oxford’s massive development enters its second phase.

The landscape design for the square was designed by Woltz’s firm, Nelson Byrd Woltz, and was inspired by Manhattan’s pre-Industrial Revolution ecology. Trying to capture “the land that would have been,” Woltz crafted a landscape of 225 mature trees28,000 plant species, woodland plants, perennial gardens and a 200-foot-long fountain that will mirror the flow of a river.

The park’s soil is specially designed to provide effective drainage and nutrients for the plants, ensure wide roots and allow for proper irrigation and drainage. There’s also a massive cooling system and 15 jet-sized fans to help offset the 150-degree heat of the train yard.


Woltz—who has designed eight major public parks in the US, Canada and New Zealand and was the Wall Street Journal Magazine’s 2013 Design Innovator of the Year—was keen to tell the crowd of the park’s role as an engineering marvel. In addition to supporting large-scale plantings and serving as a ventilating cover over the rail yards, the landscape platform also serves as a reservoir for site stormwater management and reuse.

Rainwater will be collected into a 60,000-gallon tank and used for irrigating plants and trees, keeping the Hudson River clean, saving energy and offsetting five tons of greenhouse gas annually.

“I will never again take for granted standing on real soil,” Woltz commented on the system.

It will also have free WiFi, because of course it will.


Mayor de Blasio heaped praise on the project and applauded Stephen for his “audacious lifestyle” and perseverance through doubts. Citing his Italian heritage, he was confident the park would be NYC’s new piazza (no, not that one.) But he gave Heatherwick a quick word of warning.

“New Yorkers are very opinionated people, Thomas,” he said. “You’re going to hear a different opinion from every person you speak to, but please don’t get discouraged. That’s just how we are.”


The largest private real estate development in US history and the largest development in NYC since Rockefeller Center, Hudson Yards will contain 17M SF of commercial and residential space, state-of-the-art office towers, more than 100 shops, restaurants, 4,000 residences, a 750-seat public school, a 200-room Equinox hotel and 14 acres of public space when completed in 2025.

The Vessel and the Park will be completed in 2018.