Heatherwick reveals New York staircase sculpture project

UK-based architect Thomas Heatherwick has unveiled plans for a massive sculpture made up of interconnected staircases as a centrepiece to a development in New York.

The public artwork, set to cost more than $150m, was announced by Heatherwick and New York Mayor Bill de Blasio in a ceremony at the 28-acre Hudson Yards site, which is set to be the city’s biggest urban development since the completion of Rockefeller Centre in 1939.

Sitting astride a rail depot, the planned neighbourhood will comprise 16 skyscrapers surrounding a central public plaza featuring Heatherwick’s structure, “Vessel”.

The design contains more than 150 staircases, 80 landings and almost 2,500 steps, which all connect in a latticed pattern.

Stephen Ross of The Related Companies, the developers behind the Hudson Yards, compared the sculpture to great urban landmarks including the Eiffel Tower. “That was the whole idea of what I had in my mind,” he said.

“What would create something that would be truly remarkable, that would be unique?”

Heatherwick described “Vessel” as “a new public gathering place,” saying: “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.”

He was inspired, he said, by ancient Indian stepwells, but also by an old flight of stairs he had found discarded on a building site as a student.

“It caught my imagination and I loved that is was part furniture and part infrastructure,” he said. “You could climb up stairs, jump on them, dance on them, get tired on them and then plonk yourself down on them.”

The bronzed-steel and concrete sections of the sculpture are currently being fabricated in Italy, and the piece is expected to open to the public sometime in 2018.