The Vessel A Vertical Amphitheatre Traversing Rajasthan to New York

Published On: Feb 6, 2023

Are you a Potterhead? Well, then you would feel the weirdest deja vu while looking at the plan of the Vessel. A visitor attraction built as a part of the Hudson Yards, Manhattan, New York, the Vessel grabs the eye of designers, architects and visitors alike. This honeycomb-like structure rises to 16 storeys with 154 flights of stairs, 80 landings and 2500 steps. The structure of this architectural node has been built to plan by the British designer Thomas Heatherwick, with an estimated cost of $200 million. 

The architecture of Vessel Escheresque disregards conventional compartments of design, presented by the Arup team, which quoted getting back to basics. The team then came up with capacitated engineering solutions, supporting Heatherwick's idea while satisfying the performance listicle in the most efficient way. Arup bullet listed analytical methodologies, evaluating energy performance, activeness of the public address (PA) and thermal stresses for music and texts in a follicle of complex forms and urban environment.


The Design Plan  

The prefabricated realm of the staircase was imported from Italy to New York, optimising prolonged operations and elaborative maintenance measures. Installed, pre-wired and tested in the factory, Arup's team in New York enlisted people from Milan to perform on-site inspections as well. 

Opened to visitors in the year 2019, the Vessel had already become a highlight for the tourists to visit, becoming a topic for conversation between visitors and design professionals. 

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The Design Plan

On the west side of one of the largest mixed-use and private real estate projects in American history,  Hudson Yards, stands the much noticeable Vessel. The neighbourhood bears four skyscrapers, a cultural centre, a seven-storey shopping mall, and a structural tease of the Vessel. With the grand and futuristic design, the Vessel stands tall as an interactive sculpture, appreciating public spaces. 

The idea of this sculpture was to erect a monument in Hudson Yards that would engage people and merge with the existing architectural fabric. Not only this is treated as a public space to socialise and interact but the 360-degree view offered by the structure enhances the character. 

Architecture and Structure of the Vessel 

Creating a novel node, this landmark is a circular and vertical frame with 2,465 steps, 80 landings, offering views that overlook borough and the Hudson River. Replenishing Manhattan's Upper West side into a featured neighbourhood, this real estate project stands as one of the largest in American History. The reintroduction of gardens, green belts and public spaces refurbished this NYC pocket. 

Architecture and Structure of the Vessel

The design team of Heatherwick were focused on creating something monumental, yet binding. Something that itches the memory of a bystander and creates the impression of an unconventional public space. Exploring and bifurcating various objectives, the team narrowed it down to creating a static sculpture that behaves like a social encounter and uplifts activity. However, at the end of the day, it should be fun! 

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Using steps is a sigma architectural approach and creating such public spaces not only induces a character but is always remembered singularly. For example, the Spanish steps in Rome, the stepwell in Rajasthan etc.  As a matter of fact, the architects of the Vessel were quite intrigued with the intricacy of the step-wells in Rajasthan. Drawing inspiration from those carved stone steps, the Vessel was created as an American Emblem. However, the Vessel reminds us of an amphitheatre, with the focus being the centre and inward facing.

Architecture and Structure of the Vessel

Facts about the Vessel, New York

Now that we have learned about the architecture of the Vessel, here are a few facts about the structure: 

The Massive Emblem of New York: Vessel

Created with an interconnecting flight of 154 stairs, the vessel collectively flaunts 2500 steps, along with 80 landings. The designers constructed these bronzed-steel and concrete structures, interlacing into forms, offering a miraculous view of New York City, with a river to gaze at. 

Ancient Indian character

The people of the Heatherwick studio wanted to create something statement-making that allowed people to be a part of the massive interactive structure. The design of the steps were inspired by Rajasthan’s step wells and the idea of recurring landings and flights inspired the concept of the Vessel. This is much openly quoted by Heatherwicks in interviews. 

Inducing Balance in Various Forms 

While you might look at this structure and believe that it won’t cater to easy accessibility, with the concealed ramps and elevators, it is completely convenient for the specially-abled. It is also important to underline that this structure follows the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990.

Inducing Balance in Various Forms

Collossal, but in a Box

The designers wanted to avoid chaos at the entrance and were focused on a lesser footprint. This made the diametre of the Vessel plunge 50 feet from the base and extending to 150 feet to its zenith of 6-storeys, ranging vertically. The structure charges vertically but is stable for safety purposes. 


With the increasing ruggedness in the field, the company wanted to establish a statement structure that speaks about architecture and gains some attention. The studio of heather wick was instructed to create a 'galvanizing moment' and something that becomes a popular node in Hudson Yards. The Vessel is often compared to the Christmas tree at Rockefeller Center, which is a 365-days-a-year Christmas tree. 

Multiple Opinions

There are always two sides to every story and with the design of the vessel, a part of New York was appreciated, but the other part was only making jokes. Some people saw it an elaborative monument, while others compartmentalized it. Design critics went through an array of design expressions, calling it a 'wastepaper basket', 'Shawarma', 'drinking glasses', etc. However, there has been no win and the acceptance of design has been a topic of discussion and conflicting. 

Material Scape

As quoted earlier, the materials that are being used in the structure are copper-coloured reflective steel surfaces, acting like a mirror to the people strolling below the ground of public square. The concrete on the inside also creates an urban envirnment. The concept of the vessel can be quoted 'multifacted', one of which reveals that the warmth of the copper imitates a beating heart, that plays a contrast with the shimmery blues and silvers to the nearby skyscrapers. Any action or movement that takes place below and above every layer of the 150 ft tall Vessel, are reflecting the core idea of creating interactive zones for people.

Is 'The Vessel' Real? : 

The actual name of the structure is not meant to be 'The Vessel'. The current given name is merely a temporary one to be used until the company can come up with a more permanent one. They have relied on the public to give the structure a new, official name from their experience of its design. The name will be selected by voting for one from the list of the best-suggested names.

What's with the Secrecy, Vessel? :

 The Vessel was initially a secret project and in order to safeguard the design, the final design concept was kept from the city. A 20-feet fence was constructed around the steelworks in northwestern Italy in order to conceal it. All these parts were later imported to the US' construction site using tugboats along the banks of Hudson river. 

With all these facts associated with the Vessel, there is a dark side to it as well. (Trigger Warning: Suicide)

Up until the year 2021, the Vessel has encountered and been the suicide site for four people. While the site is completely designed on the basis of vertical circulation, there might be a few reg flags that came into the notice, much later. 

Is the Vessel Turning into a Suicide Spot? 

While there were multiple suicides happening in the Vessel, people say that the disability act 'follower' was maybe too much accessible. While the elevators had widened their access, the areas might be 'too open' in the structure. Not only the height of the flight was alarming, but the railings were not too high enough to keep people from only falling. It is also quoted that the obvious prevention method would've saved lives, but on the cost of the views, which was literally the bold-fonted USP.

However, these bullets and mental health apprehensions were not pinned during the design processes. Had it been in the highlight, this would definitely have been flagged by someone. 

In Conclusion

While the concept of the Vessel was revealed on September 14,2016, the construction of the structure began in April, 2017. The structure was prefabricrated in Italy and was later shipped to the US. This statement making structure made its history on December 2017, being the highest piece as a public space. However, the Vessel encountered a total of four suicides, until 2021. So, ultimately this comes with a bittersweet feelling and stands with the same.


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    How many suicides happened in the Vessel?

    The vessel has encountered four suicides, as per records until 2021.

    What does the Vessel represent?

    Vessel is addressed as an intense social chunk of three-dimensional public space that is open to use and exposition.

    Can you go inside the Vessel?

    The Vessel is open from Monday to Sunday (Timings: 10am to 8pm). The tickets for entry are $10 per person and children under 5 can enter the vessel for free. It is interesting how the vessel has come up with a ticket “Come with us” for solo travelers, where you can join a group of other solo visitors.

    Why did the Vessel close NYC?

    The tourist node, the Vessel has been a site of attraction of tourists, but on the other hand, has also been a hotspot of tragedy, bearing four suicides in the past two years. A 14-year old was seen jumping himself to death on the Hudson’s Yards’ Vessela; two years hence, the location remains closed.

    How much does the Vessel cost NYC?

    Tickets to the Vessel are free during the initial hour of the operation and it would cost you $10 per person all the other times. Tickets for children at the age of 5 or lesser are free.

    Who owns the Vessel in New York?

    Vessel is definitely one of the highlights in the Hudson Yards Public Square, that sprawls over an area of 5acres. Funded by the Hudson Yards developer Related Companies, the final cost of the vessel comes down to $200 million.

    Why is the Vessel famous?

    The vessel was basically eyed as the centerpiece fo the Hudson Yads, which is a project that was the largest mixed use private development project in the history of US development.

    Not only the vessel is seen as a structurally sound piece of architecture, but this also looks like a massive jungle gym and can hold upto 1000 people in one go. The meticulous and concealed ramps and elevators, help maintaining the compliance with the Disablities Act of 1990.

    What is the purpose of the Vessel Hudson Yards?

    The Vessel in New York was designed to be an interactive sculpture as well as a public space. The purpose of the vessel was to design a monument on the site of Hudson Yards that would engage people and would not mess too much with the surrounding architectural fabric. It was envisioned as an interactive space for the public and the residents of the neighborhood to socialize.

    How many floors does the Vessel have?

    The vessel is inclusive of sixteen floors and extends to 46m.

    How many steps are in the Vessel NYC?

    Comprising of 154 individuals, the vessel interconnects with 154 elaborative flight of stairs, which nearly rounds off to 2500 single steps and 80 landings. It is also important to note that the vertical climb gives you some remarkable view to the city, the river and much more.