More than three years after he boasted that the centerpiece of Hudson Yards’ public plaza would be New York’s Eiffel Tower, Related Companies chairman Stephen Ross Wednesday unveiled the design for a 16-story web of interconnected staircases that will rise among the mega-projects glass-and-steel towers.
The structure, titled “Vessel” and designed by Thomas Heatherwick, comes with a price tag of $150 million and will be in place at the Far West Side campus’ public square in two years.
“I wanted to create a 365-day Christmas tree,” Ross explained, comparing the copper-colored spectacle to Rockefeller Center’s holiday attraction during an unveiling ceremony.
Heatherwick’s structure, currently under construction in Italy, is made up of 154 interconnected staircases – some 2,500 steps – and 80 landings designed to offer various views of the new live-work-play neighborhood, which opened its first building in late May.
Several hundred onlookers gathered outside the 7 train subway station entrance to get their first glimpse at the long-awaited landmark as the sounds of construction buzzed on the surrounding towers.
Heatherwick noted he and his team felt “enormous pressure” to create a centerpiece that could compete for attention with the skyscraper around it where “the height wasn’t the main thing.”
“Vessel” can accommodate 1,000 people at a time within its lattice of staircases, which rises from a base measuring 50 feet in diameter that will widen to 150 feet as it climbs.
Ross had long wished to make a big splash with the centerpiece, and Related insiders had joked that there existed one picture of the sculpture that the chairman kept in his wallet.
Mayor Bill de Blasio, who was on hand for the unveiling ceremony and had seen early inspiration photos of the project, confirmed that Ross did “a very good job of keeping it close to the vest.”
“[That] added to the excitement,” he said.