Ever since its opening on March 15th, 2019, the Vessel (TKA) became one of the most popular tourist attractions of Manhattan, second to Times Square. Intended to be built as “interactive artwork,” British designer Thomas Heatherwick and Heatherwick Studio had grand plans for the beehive-resembling, 150-foot-high steel and copper-polished infrastructure that stands as the towering centerpiece of the newly developed Hudson Yards neighborhood.
According to the Hudson Yards website, the landmark consists of 154 interconnecting flights of stairs, almost 2,500 individual steps and 80 landings, offering uniquely breathtaking views across the Hudson Yards landscape, the Hudson River, and a stretch of Manhattan. The design was reportedly inspired by the Spanish Steps model in Rome and the ancient Indian Stepwells, while being dubbed New York’s “Eiffel Tower.”
Standing in the center of the Public Plaza, surrounded by green space and public gardens, Vessel represents the peak of modernity and 21st century ideals, designed as an object of physical and emotional exploration. At the same time, its resemblance to ancient architectural triumphs combines a timeless aspect with its distinctive newness.
Every step of its construction was meticulously executed. In order to decrease the physical footprint of the structure, Heatherwick Studio partner Stuart Wood told the public that its increase in geometry from its base was intentional. The carbon steel pieces used in its constructed were assembled in Italy, only to be shipped to a US port and dragged along the Hudson River on a barge. The cost exceeded $150 million.
In a conversation with the press, Wood explained, “"It's not a building, it's not a sculpture, it's not an artwork, and yet it has scale and relevance to all of those typologies... In a way, we're thinking of this as a piece of furniture. Its ongoing use will evolve, quite naturally."
Heatherwick has stated his goal behind the project was to “bring people together,” serving as a unique public destination for whichever use the public sought fit. As of now, people have taken to its labyrinth of stairs and pathways as a way to implement some exercise in the massive jungle gym the landmark represents. Tickets are free and can be purchased in the same day or up to two weeks in advance.
As part of Phase One of the Hudson Yards Redevelopment Project, The Shops & Restaurants At Hudson Yards, a “Fifth-Avenue” assortment of retail, officially graced the platform on March 19th, in conjunction with Vessel (TKA). The development sits on what used to be known as the West Side Yard; now taken over by primary developer Related Companies and its major equity partner Oxford Properties, in what is the largest private real estate development in the United States.
Phase Two plans to include more residential space, a large-scale office building and a school for pre-K through eighth grade students. It is estimated to cost around $500 million, to be completed by 2024.
While Vessel (TKA) has yet to be officially named —“TKA” stands for “Temporarily Known As,” the public has poured over social media in enthusiasm for names such as “The Giant Shawarma,” while comparing its shape to a trash can, a vase, a honeycomb and a rib cage, to name a few.