Completion of “Vessel” at Hudson Yards is a year out and Stephen Ross is in love

People are already wondering whether it will be New York's greatest success or an epic, costly failure

Thomas Heatherwick and Stephen Ross in front of Vessel, which topped out in late 2017. (Credit: courtesy of Related-Oxford)
Thomas Heatherwick and Stephen Ross in front of Vessel, which topped out in late 2017. (Credit: courtesy of Related-Oxford)

The legacy of Stephen Ross and designer Thomas Heatherwick’s “loving” collaboration hangs on the future of a skeletal “365-day Christmas tree,” as Ross told journalists when he unveiled the design in 2016.

The monumental project, named “Vessel,” is costing Ross’ Related Companies an estimated $200 million to build, but it’s an expense the billionaire chairman is willing to incur in order to build New York the 150-foot Eiffel Tower-like landmark (in his own estimation) it deserves. But, a year ahead of its scheduled completion, people — both outside and inside Related — are wondering about the project’s future as Ian Parker reports in The New Yorker.

Vessel topped out in late 2017. (Credit: courtesy of Related-Oxford)

Most public spaces consider the programming of events and details like crowd control first before designing the park — that’s how Bryant Park Corporation’s Dan Biederman did it and would recommend to others. Ross, however, did the opposite, commissioning British designer Heatherwick in 2013 to create a sculpture, which will sit on a landscaped garden  among the towering buildings of Hudson Yards, and consist of 154 flights of stairs; then Ross tasked Related president Jay Cross to come up with programming to ensure strong footfall.

“This will be a real test,” Biederman said to the New Yorker. “I’m absolutely undecided whether Hudson Yards will be the greatest success or a failure.”

Cross, for his part, seems to be lost as to what to do with Vessel, which he himself called “forbidding” before correcting himself: “It really depends on where you stand.”

Sign Up for the undefined Newsletter

Cross has brought on Super Bowl halftime producer David Saltz to help him plan the Vessel’s rapidly approaching grand opening, but even then, Cross admitted to the magazine: “I don’t know how it’s going to work.”

But Ross is not concerned; he’s in love and he’s admitted it to himself.

“I fell in love instantly,” Ross told the New Yorker. “My guys around here thought I was out of my goddamn mind. It was too big, too this, too that. ‘How are we going to build it?’ ‘What’s it going to cost?’ I said, ‘I don’t care.’”

For Heatherwick — who is widely acclaimed for his unusual architectural works, but is not a licensed architect and has been recently embroiled in scandal over a cancelled London project involving public money — Ross is the dream client. According to the magazine, the design of Vessel’s intricate stairs was first iterated in 2006 in an unbuilt design originally intended for a hilltop in Azerbaijan.

Time will tell how their work and relationship ultimately ends, but, to Boston Consulting Group’s  Ross Love, it’s not necessarily a bad sign that there is no discernible use for Vessel.

As Love told the magazine, “you have this thing that is pointless—and that is the point.” [The New Yorker]Erin Hudson