The biggest real estate development in American history will have a 15-story maze of stairwells

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The Independent Online

New York City's Hudson Yards — the biggest private real estate project in American history— is getting a massive public centerpiece that looks like it was inspired by M.C. Escher.

The structure — part interconnected stairway, part tower, part art piece — will stand in the heart of the development's outdoor public space. Called Vessel, it is currently being referred to as a "public landmark" by Hudson Yards developer Related Companies.

Hudson Yards is under construction on the far west side of midtown Manhattan. The $25 billion neighborhood will include residential, retail and office space and span a whopping 28 acres.

The project is New York's largest since Rockefeller Center's construction in 1936. And, like Rockefeller Center, which features a public plaza, fountain, and iconic sculpture (not to mention the world-famous ice rink that takes over in the winter), the developers of Hudson Yards are making public space a priority.

Plans for the project’s outdoor area include more than five acres of plazas and gardens designed by landscape architect Thomas Woltz. The space will connect to the top end of the High Line, the popular elevated park on New York’s formerly abandoned train tracks.

But perhaps the most striking part of the plan is the design for Vessel, which will allow visitors to climb nearly 150 feet into the air. It broke ground on April 18, and is expected to open in fall 2018.

Take a look at the renderings.

hudson1.jpg
(Forbes Massie)

Designed by Thomas Heatherwick, founder of London's Heatherwick Studio, the Vessel will include 154 flights of stairs, which intersect to form an Escher-esque lattice of infinite walkways. The structure will have nearly 2,500 steps and 80 landings, totaling a mile of pathway above the plazas and gardens below.

The sculpture will widen from 50 feet across at its base to 150 feet at its top, mirroring the appearance of a hive or tornado. Once it’s full of climbing visitors and tourists, the fullness and movement will add to that motion-filled aesthetic.

A crane installed the first piece of steel on April 18. The first 10 of 75 pieces arrived by ship from Monfalcone, Italy, where they were made in a factory.

hudson2.jpg
(Forbes Massie)

"There are so many buildings and projects I wish I saw being made," Heatherwick said in a press release. "For those who are interested, I hope it will turn out to have been worth heading up onto the High Line to catch a glimpse of the complex geometry being pieced together like an incredible jigsaw puzzle.”

He also said the design was inspired by images of stepwells in India: elaborate, geometric structures with interconnected stairs that lead to a water source. The influence is fitting, since Hudson Yards sits near the Hudson River, and boasts views of the water from many of its planned towers.

hudson3.jpg
(Forbes Massie)

“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,” Heatherwick wrote in a statement.

Beyond Heatherwick's new ‘landmark,’ the public space will feature groves of trees and plants, boasting more than 28,000 species. There will also be a 200-foot-long fountain, pedestrian paths, seating walls, and open squares with tables.

All of this — including the Vessel and the 16 planned skyscrapers in the development — will live on top of a high-tech platform built above a working rail yard.

hudson4.jpg
(Forbes Massie)
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