Art History Lab

The Hudson Yards Vessel: A Controversial Marvel of Design and Innovation

The Hudson Yards Vessel: A Marvel of Design and Controversy

In the heart of New York City, a staggering 16-story structure stands tall among the gleaming skyscrapers of Manhattan. It is a remarkable maze of winding staircases, consisting of 154 flights of stairs, that took the world by storm when it opened to the public in March of 2019.

Dubbed “The Vessel,” this architectural marvel was designed by renowned British designer Thomas Heatherwick and commissioned by Stephen Ross, the billionaire CEO of the Related Companies. Its construction was part of the Hudson Yards Redevelopment Project, a multi-billion dollar effort to transform a once-decrepit section of the city and put it back on the map.

The Vessel, however, would soon come under scrutiny and controversies not just for its design but also for its accessibility.

Design and Features of the Vessel

The Vessel is a 150-foot-tall structure that resembles an enormous honeycomb or a giant beehive. It is made up of steel, concrete, and copper-colored cladding, and its 80 landings offer visitors breathtaking views of the Hudson River and the surrounding cityscape.

The Vessel’s staircases are arranged in a spiral pattern, with the lower steps being the widest and the upper steps more narrow. The result is a mesmerizing optical illusion, with the structure appearing to twist and contort as visitors ascend or descend it.

The Vessel’s design is a testament to Heatherwick’s ingenuity and creativity. It is a stunning example of contemporary architecture, blending organic and geometric forms seamlessly.

The enormous structure is accessible to the public all year round, with free timed tickets available either online or at the Vessel kiosk on the day of the visit. The Vessel’s design features heated handrails to keep visitors warm during cold weather, ensuring that visitors can enjoy its views even during the winter months.

Cost and Development of the Vessel

The Vessel was a critical piece of the Hudson Yards Redevelopment Project, a $25 billion initiative to develop a vast section of the West Side of Manhattan by creating new residential and office buildings as well as public spaces. The project had been in the works for years, but it wasn’t until 2016 that the Vessel came into the public eye.

The Vessel’s construction began in April 2017 and took roughly two years to complete. The cost of the Vessel was a staggering $200 million, funded entirely by the Related Companies, and its unveiling in 2016 was an important moment in the history of the Hudson Yards project.

History and Controversies Surrounding the Vessel

The Vessel’s construction was not without controversies and criticisms, most of which centered around the structure’s design and accessibility. First, there was the controversy surrounding the Vessel’s design itself.

When the design was unveiled, critics bemoaned the cost and the structure’s strange appearance. Some residents believed that it was an unnecessary extravagance, while others felt that its design was not in keeping with the surrounding architecture.

Nevertheless, the Vessel became a popular tourist attraction, drawing visitors from all over the world, eager to see its unique design and views of the city from above.

Controversies and Accessibility Issues

In addition to being a marvel of design, the Vessel was also the subject of controversies regarding accessibility. For example, there was the issue of photo policies.

Visitors were initially required to sign over the rights to their photos taken while on the Vessel, which incited backlash from civil rights groups and photographers. The policy was revoked in response to the criticism.

Further, disabled tourists were also left out of the Vessel’s experience for a time. The Vessel’s accessibility for visitors with disabilities was another point of contention, with some disability advocates criticizing the structure’s layout and lack of accommodations.

As a result, the Related Companies made an agreement with the US Department of Justice to improve accessibility.


The Hudson Yards Vessel is an architectural gem that has garnered attention and acclaim the world over. Its unique design and breathtaking views make it a must-see attraction for tourists visiting New York City.

However, its contentious history and accessibility issues point to the challenges involved in creating such a complex and ambitious structure. Despite these challenges, the Vessel remains a symbol of creativity, innovation, and urban revitalization, a testament to the power of design to transform the landscapes and experiences of urban spaces.

The Vessel in New York: Design Marvel or Tragic Site? The Hudson Yards Vessel may be one of the most innovative engineering structures of the 21st century, but that has not kept it from public scrutiny.

Since its early days, the Vessel has been the center of an ongoing debate that includes its architectural design, public safety, and increasing rates of suicide. The controversies surrounding the Vessel have sparked criticism and have prompted authorities to take drastic measures to address the issues.

Heres what you need to know.

Incidents and Closure of the Vessel

The Vessel has had its share of unsettling and tragic incidents since it opened to the public in March 2019. From late December 2020 to January 2021, three individuals committed suicide by jumping off the structure, prompting a petition to close the Vessel indefinitely.

The Vessel was eventually closed in January 2021 after these incidents and was reopened four months later in May 2021 after the management put some safety measures to prevent suicides. Unfortunately, it was reopened to another suicide in July 2021, causing the structure to be closed indefinitely.

Safety Measures Taken to Reduce Suicides

The structure’s design made it easy for individuals to jump off its various platforms without much obstruction. Nevertheless, the management has put measures in place to prevent further tragedies, such as installing 10 feet-high barriers and additional security personnel.

In addition, the Related Companies initially said that the Vessel would reopen when it could implement more permanent measures, such as safety nets, but no timeline has been given for when the structure might reopen.

Aesthetic and Design Criticisms of the Vessel

Despite the Vessel’s success as a tourist attraction, it has not escaped criticism, particularly in aesthetics and design. While some find the structure’s design compelling and fascinating, others have found it excessive and gimmicky, with one local critic describing it as “selfie magnet tilting at windmills.” Some of the criticisms are that *it is excessively vain and optimistic which seems somewhat premature in a society currently struggling* or that it is the product of overzealous perfectionism to create something new and unconventional.

Others have likened the Vessel to an M.C. Escher drawing, with its seemingly endless series of looping staircases, intense, and quite purposefully disorienting.

Mixed Reviews and Reactions

Opinions of the Vessel vary widely, with some people praising the structure as a unique perspective on modern architectural design. Others, however, dismiss it as an unnecessary indulgence, an unsightly eyesore a thousand feet in the air from which people have been taking their own lives.

For some, it is praised for its location, conveniently located in a popular destination for tourists looking to explore the Hudson Yards. Meanwhile, others find the structure overwrought and unnecessarily complex, and argue that it detracts from the surrounding cityscape.

As the debate rages on, the Vessel’s management continues to seek input from experts on how to address concerns regarding its safety features and design. Regardless of where one may stand on the issue, it is clear that the Vessel will continue to serve as a source of divisive controversy.

As New York City continues to evolve and change, it is likely that new engineering feats will emerge, prompting wonder and debate among residents and visitors alike. The Vessel in New York: A Symbol of Innovation, Diversity, and Collaboration

In the heart of Manhattan lies a towering structure that has captured the imagination of millions; it is called the Vessel.

With its unique design, breathtaking views, and rich history, the Vessel has become an iconic landmark in New York City, serving a diverse range of purposes and representing a beacon of creativity, innovation, and collaboration.

Purpose and Function of the Vessel

The Vessel serves as a major visitor attraction in New York City, making it one of the most popular destinations for tourists. The structure offers diverse viewpoints of the city, and its sprawling 80 landings, 154 flights of stairs, and distinct spiral design make it a unique public space.

The Vessel is a part of the larger Hudson Yards development project, which aims to transform the once-neglected West End of Manhattan into a cultural and business hub.

Symbolism and Importance of the Vessel

The Vessel’s design and location serve as a focal point and destination for those coming to New York City. It is a landmark that brings together the old and the new, representing the city’s past, present, and future.

Standing some 150 feet tall above the Hudson River, the Vessel blends modern architectural styles with the historic cityscape that surrounds it. Besides being a creative and innovative engineering feat, the Vessel symbolizes universal values such as collaboration, entrepreneurship, and innovation, which have been fundamental to New York City’s success in the past.

It is a symbol of human exploration and the unconquerable spirit of overcoming the impossible. The Vessel offers an excellent platform for visitors to learn more about New York’s history, people, and culture.

Its significance extends beyond its engineering design and aesthetic appeal, as it has become a testament to the ingenuity and progressive spirit of those who championed it. Moreover, the Vessel’s location provides fascinating views of the Hudson River and offers a glimpse of the surrounding scenery that is breathtaking.

With its grand and sweeping spiral staircases, the structure opens up new possibilities for its visitors, providing them with a novel perspective of New York City from a new height. It showcases the city’s unique character and offers visitors an opportunity to take in its vast and diverse landscape with new eyes.


The Vessel in New York City embodies creativity, innovation, and progressive thinking, making it an icon of modern architecture and a cultural hub. The structure serves as a significant tourist attraction, providing guests with unique viewpoints of the city, and a symbol of New York City’s past, present, and future.

The Vessel’s significance extends beyond the architectural and engineering accomplishments, as it has become a source of inspiration and innovation. It is proof once again that New York City remains a hub for forward-thinking and collaboration.

The Vessel is a landmark and a unique public space that has become an integral part of New York’s cultural landscape. The Hudson Yards Vessel has captivated the world with its unique design and breathtaking views of New York City.

Serving as a major visitor attraction and a symbol of innovation and collaboration, the Vessel stands as a testament to the city’s past, present, and future. Despite controversies and challenges surrounding its accessibility, safety, and design, the Vessel remains an iconic landmark that represents the ingenuity and progressive spirit of New York City.

With its blend of creativity, architectural beauty, and cultural significance, the Vessel stands as a reminder of the power of design to transform urban spaces and leave a lasting impact on the world.

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