Now, under the auspices of billionaire property developer Stephen Ross, Heatherwick is making his mark on Manhattan, where a $200-million ornament is being erected in keeping with his design.
The ‘Vessel’, as it is currently known, is a grand-scale art installation at the heart of Manhattan’s Hudson Yards. It is – or will finally be, when construction is completed – a copper-encased, three-dimensional helix of sorts, comprising endless, interweaving staircases with no apparent apex or destination. It resembles nothing so much as an utterly evolved beehive, and, beyond its aesthetic value, the purpose of this mammoth edifice is anybody’s guess.
It might be used as an unconventional performance space, or simply rely on its indisputable novelty to sustain interest. People can, of course, walk the staircases ad nauseam, and probably will, in much the same way that tourists flock to the Statue of Liberty. But, unlike the Statue of Liberty – and the Eiffel Tower, which Ross is hoping, in his own way, to replicate – the ‘Vessel’ is strangely ahistorical, devoid of context and cultural currency. It simply is – or is shortly to be.