Q1 2023

BUILD Q1 2023 14 Oct22109 ince its unveiling on March 15th in 2019, the Vessel has been the site of no less than four deaths. Commissioned by Stephen Ross and Michael Bloomberg from designer Thomas Heatherwick as part of luxury multi-use-space Hudson Yards, this sculpture can be found on the far west side of Manhattan, and has been ‘temporarily closed’ since summer of last year after a 14-yearold boy died by suicide at the Vessel. Indeed, this $250 million dollar project was erected to be a ‘gift to the city’ from Ross himself. But it did not pan out this way. With 16 staircases of metal and glass – inspired by ancient Indian stepwells like those found at Chand Boari to bring water to arid regions – the Vessel’s reception to the New York skyline was one of conflict, with some lauding its design as ‘thrilling’ with its high walkways and view of the Manhattan skyline; and others condemning it as ‘unnerving’ and ‘utterly inaccessible.’ The latter certainly isn’t helped by the fact that the Vessel is entirely a physical experience. In fact, Heatherwick himself described it as an experience of ‘properly using your physicality’ even whilst touting that the Vessel was for everyone, all citizens of New York, implying that all citizens of New York are able bodied and able to contend with not just stairs in general, but “What Happens Now is Nothing to do with Me” The above title, more than just turn of phrase, is a quote from London designer Thomas Heatherwick upon the unveiling of ‘the Vessel’ in New York. Having become one of the most talked-about and controversial pieces of blue-chip art in the world thanks the dark side of this combination architectural experiment, public sculpture, and luxury eye candy, the Vessel has become the centre of discussions regarding architectural experts’ duty of care. When one creates a concept, realises a design, and begins to bring it to life, what – if anything – is the investor, designer and builder responsible for regarding how people use it later? S the huge amount of them in the Vessel. There is a lift, but it takes the person all the way to the top; not exactly allowing them to experience the ‘journey’ part of the artwork that the designers so wanted guests to partake in. And then the deaths began. Tragedy struck for the first time on February 1st in 2020, when the first person jumped from the vessel, and then again in December of 2020, and January of 2021; after this, the Vessel was closed, and the minds behind it clubbed together to reply to the backlash and attempt to find a solution. However, said discussions were heavily marred by discussions of wanting to ‘retain artistic integrity’. Even though strategies were implemented such as a ten-dollar entry fee to the previously free artwork, a buddy system being enforced, suicide prevention hotline signage being posted, and even the introduction of security personnel, the idea of simply putting in railings higher than waist height was considered the sticking point. The reason for this? Fear of damaging the views and the experience. This, ostensibly, throws the quote in the title of this