At a lively outdoor event held today on Manhattan’s West Side, Mayor Bill de Blasio, Chairman and Founder of Related Companies Stephen M. Ross, renowned designer and Founder of Heatherwick Studio Thomas Heatherwick and celebrated landscape architect Thomas Woltz unveiled plans for a public landmark initially called Vessel as the centerpiece to a grand new public space. A special performance by the Alvin Ailey Dance Foundation, the internationally recognized dance organization whose West Side home is New York’s largest building dedicated to dance, extended a joyful welcome to Vessel and the Public Square and Gardens at Hudson Yards that will soon distinguish the neighborhood.
The Public Square and Gardens at Hudson Yards, designed by Nelson Byrd Woltz Landscape Architects in collaboration with Heatherwick Studio, will feature more than five acres of public plazas, gardens and groves that seamlessly connect to the High Line and the new Hudson Park & Boulevard. When complete, this continuous chain of open spaces on the West Side will run from Gansevoort Street to Times Square, making it the largest network of public spaces developed in Manhattan since Central Park. At its center will sit Vessel, designed by Heatherwick Studio. With the development of the second phase of Hudson Yards, this new public space will also connect across 30th Street to the final phase of Hudson River Park, extending the bike paths from the George Washington Bridge to the north and south to the Battery.
Vessel is a new kind of public landmark: engaging and interactive, meant to be climbed and explored. Comprised of 154 intricately interconnecting flights of stairs—almost 2,500 individual steps and 80 landings—Vessel will lift the public up, offering a multitude of ways to engage with and experience New York, Hudson Yards and each other. In total, Vessel will offer a mile’s worth of pathway rising up above the Gardens. The dramatic design of Vessel creates a stage set for New Yorkers and visitors from around the world: a geometric lattice of intersecting flights of stairs whose form rises from a base that is 50 feet in diameter and widens at the top to 150 feet. It is constructed of a structural painted steel frame, its underside surfaces covered by a polished copper-colored steel skin.
Thomas Heatherwick, designer and founder of Heatherwick Studio, said, “My studio was commissioned to design a centerpiece for an unusual new piece of land in New York. In a city full of eye-catching structures, our first thought was that it shouldn’t just be something to look at. Instead we wanted to make something that everybody could use, touch, relate to. Influenced by images we had seen of Indian stepwells, made from hundreds of flights of stairs going down into the ground, an idea emerged to use flights of stairs as building elements.
“When I was a student, I fell in love with an old discarded flight of wooden stairs outside a local building site. It caught my imagination and I loved that is was part furniture and part infrastructure. You could climb up stairs, jump on them, dance on them, get tired on them and then plonk yourself down on them. Years later, suddenly here was an opportunity to make a new kind of landmark for Hudson Yards. We wondered whether it could be built entirely from steps and landings. The goal became to lift people up to be more visible and to enjoy new views and perspectives of each other. The idea is that it will act as a new free stage set for the city and form a new public gathering place for New Yorkers and visitors.”
The unveiling culminated in a dramatic and energetic live performance by dancers from Alvin Ailey, including both youth and adult students, under the direction of Matthew Rushing, inspired by the design of the public space and Vessel and its aspirations. The performance and accompanying short film, which featured company dancers as well as students from Alvin Ailey, captured the energy, creativity and rhythm of the city and its people, as well as the draw and experiential and interactive nature of Vessel.
Stephen M. Ross, chairman of Related Companies, said, “Our neighborhoods here in New York and in great cities around the world are defined by their public spaces—and the Public Square and Gardens at Hudson Yards and its magical centerpiece by Thomas Heatherwick and Heatherwick Studio will become a new icon not just for the neighborhood, but for the city. The expansive gardens and groves will offer respite and Heatherwick’s imaginative Vessel will allow the city and its visitors to engage with each other and their surroundings in new ways. Like New Yorkers, Vessel is not passive. It embodies our city’s energy, activity and movement. Only Thomas could have imagined such an active, engaging, innovative and beautiful structure to welcome everyone to Hudson Yards, and we are extremely proud to share his vision with the city. It is an unprecedented piece both in its monumental scale and experience and as it weaves its way into the life and identity of the city. We want the public to not only experience and experiment with it, but eventually determine its name.”
Mayor Bill de Blasio said, “This incredible open space will define this neighborhood. And at its center, this new landmark will become an engaging destination that brings New Yorkers and visitors together. We thank Stephen Ross for his dedication to our city’s public realm. We are thrilled to see Hudson Yards taking shape, and the investments in housing, jobs, transit and public space bearing fruit.”
Blake Hutcheson, president and CEO of Oxford Properties Group, said, “We have always believed that Hudson Yards would give New Yorkers a reason to look up. This spectacular piece by Thomas Heatherwick and Heatherwick Studio goes one step further—it not only gives people a reason to look up, but a reason to go up. A reason to explore and to engage with the city and with one another in a form that is both personal and communal at the same time. Vessel, along with the extensive public space at Hudson Yards, will evolve with every interaction, every day and every season. We are very proud to be part of the team bringing this striking new gathering place to New York City.”
The landscape design by Nelson Byrd Woltz for the Public Square and Gardens, inspired by Manhattan’s rich ecological history of dense forest crossed by streams from the Hudson Highlands to the early industrial history of the 19th and 20th centuries, will feature groves of trees, woodlands plants, perennial gardens and a 200-foot-long fountain that will mirror the flow of a river. Visitors entering from the north will be greeted by a seasonally expressive Entry Garden, while the southern edge will offer a dense canopy of native trees including Nyssa sylvatica, commonly known as black tupelo or blackgum, in a Pavilion Grove, creating the perfect place for lunchtime gatherings or evening meals. At the Public Square at Tenth Avenue and 30th Street, visitors will find the fountain, a birch grove and a new entrance to the High Line. An immersive and varied horticultural experience is planned across the whole site, with more than 28,000 plant species of varying color and texture, including more than 200 mature trees. The large trees, expansive native perennial gardens and patches of wildflowers will be home to migratory birds and pollinators.
Throughout the Public Square and Gardens at Hudson Yards, pedestrian paths will be lined with seating walls and delineated by varying shades of gray granite bands of hand-laid cobble stones. Beyond hardscape and planting design, the landscape platform itself is a technical innovation. Serving as a ventilating cover over the working railyards below, the platform is engineered to support large-scale plantings and serve as a reservoir for site stormwater management and reuse. The space will feature nearly a mile of low garden walls, with nearly 80 percent designed for sitting and respite. Additional seating will be made available throughout Hudson Yards in a wide variety, allowing for a full range of experience.
Thomas Woltz, principal of Nelson Byrd Woltz, said, “We approached this design by looking at the ecological history of this site, while also thinking about the hundreds of years of technological advances—including the innovations at Hudson Yards—that have enabled Manhattan to become a global hub. Both technologically complex and beautifully natural, the Public Square and Gardens at Hudson Yards is the newest place in Manhattan that will bring people together, from the local communities to the millions of national and international visitors. Inspired in part by the grand piazzas of Europe, including Rome’s Piazza del Campidoglio, our design uses the towers of Hudson Yards as anchors, the dense planting of trees as canopies to bring down the scale of the surrounding buildings and the garden landscape as the fabric that folds seamlessly into the edges of the park.”
Hudson Yards is being developed by Related Companies and Oxford Properties Group. Now under construction on the far West Side of Midtown Manhattan, from 30th to 34th Streets between Tenth Avenue and the West Side Highway, Hudson Yards is the largest private real estate development in the history of the United States and the largest development in New York City since Rockefeller Center in 1939. When completed in 2025, Hudson Yards will include more than 17 million square feet of commercial and residential space, with state-of-the-art office towers, more than 100 shops, a collection of restaurants, approximately 4,000 residences, a 750-seat public school, an Equinox® branded luxury hotel with more than 200 rooms and 14 acres of public open space. More than 125,000 people a day will work in, visit or call Hudson Yards their home. Ten Hudson Yards opened earlier this year and the Public Square and Gardens and Vessel will open to the public in 2018.
About Heatherwick Studio:
British designer Thomas Heatherwick founded Heatherwick Studio in 1994 to bring craft, design, architecture and urban planning together in a single workspace. Today a team of 200, including architects, designers and makers, work from a combined studio and workshop in King’s Cross, London. At the heart of the studio’s work is a profound commitment to finding innovative design solutions with a dedication to artistic thinking and the latent potential of materials and craftsmanship. This is achieved through a working methodology of collaborative rational inquiry, undertaken in a spirit of curiosity and experimentation. The studio’s work includes a number of nationally significant projects including the UK Pavilion for the 2010 Shanghai World Expo, the Cauldron for the 2012 Olympic Games in London and the New Bus for London. In the United States, the studio is currently involved in the renovation of Lincoln Center’s David Geffen Hall (in collaboration with Diamond Schmitt Architects), Pier55, a public park and performance space in Manhattan’s Lower West Side, and the new headquarters for Google in Mountain View, California (in collaboration with BIG).
About Nelson Byrd Woltz:
Thomas Woltz is the owner of Nelson Byrd Woltz Landscape Architects (NBW) with offices in New York City, Charlottesville, VA and San Francisco. During the past 20 years, Woltz and his staff have forged a body of work that integrates the beauty and function of built form and craftsmanship with an understanding of complex biological systems and restoration ecology yielding hundreds of acres of reconstructed wetlands, reforested land, native meadows and flourishing wildlife habitat. Currently NBW is entrusted with the design of eight major public parks across the U.S., Canada and New Zealand. The firm’s work has been recognized with over 80 national and international awards and published widely. In 2011, Thomas Woltz was invested into the American Society of Landscape Architects Council of Fellows, among the highest honors achieved in the profession, and in 2013, named Design Innovator of the Year by WSJ Magazine.
Related Companies is the most prominent privately-owned real estate firm in the United States. Formed over 40 years ago, Related is a fully-integrated, highly diversified industry leader with experience in virtually every aspect of development, acquisitions, management, finance, marketing and sales. Headquartered in New York City, Related has offices and major developments in Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, San Francisco, South Florida, Washington, D.C., Abu Dhabi, London, São Paulo and Shanghai and boasts a team of approximately 3,000 professionals. The Company’s portfolio of $30 billion in assets, current and under development, is made up of best-in-class mixed-use, residential, retail, office and affordable properties in premier high-barrier-to-entry markets. Related has developed preeminent mixed-use projects such as Time Warner Center in New York and CityPlace in West Palm Beach. Related also manages approximately $3 billion of equity capital on behalf of sovereign wealth funds, public pension plans, multi-managers, endowments, and family offices. For more information about Related Companies please visit www.related.com.
About Oxford Properties Group:
Oxford Properties Group is a global platform for real estate investment, development and management, with approximately 2,000 employees and over $40 billion of real assets that it manages for itself and on behalf of its co-owners and investment partners. Established in 1960, Oxford has regional offices in Toronto, London and New York, and the company's portfolio includes approximately 56 million square feet of office, retail, industrial, multi-family and hotel properties. Oxford is the real estate arm of OMERS. For more information, please visit www.oxfordproperties.com.
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Sharon Ruebsteck / Amy Wentz
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