NYC unveils massive new sculpture for public space project

NEW YORK – The design of the massive centerpiece sculpture in a $200 million public space project at Hudson Yards was unveiled Wednesday, with the developer calling the inverted honeycomb-like structure of platforms and stairways “truly remarkable.”

“Vessel” from British designer Thomas Heatherwick will stand 150 feet high, measuring 50 feet across at the base and 150 feet across at the top.

The concrete and steel structure will be situated in a 5-acre public space on Manhattan’s west side overlooking the Hudson River and surrounded by the skyscrapers of the expansive development project.

The price tag for fabrication and installation of the sculpture alone is $150 million.

The design, which has a latticework of 154 interconnected flights of stairs and 80 platforms, had been shrouded in an aura of mystery for the past several months.

Developer Stephen Ross of Related Companies offered hints of its potential impact, likening its appeal to New York City to the Eiffel Tower’s appeal to Paris.

“That was the whole idea of what I had in my mind,” he told The Associated Press. “What would create something that would be truly remarkable, that would be unique?”

Heatherwick, whose other projects include the cauldron for the 2012 Olympics in London, said the sculpture “is the ultimate seeing each other device,” since people would be able to see others on other platforms as well as those down below.

“We’re thrilled and excited and amazed that the project’s really happening,” he said. “It’s a very different kind of commission than we’ve ever worked on before.”

The public square where “Vessel” will sit is planned as an outdoor venue for performances and art exhibits, with landscaping that includes 28,000 plants, including more than 200 trees. It’s expected to be open to the public in 2018. Heatherwick said construction of the components already has begun in Italy.

The project was met with enthusiasm from public art advocates.

“Over the course of the last decade, monumental public art installations have become part of New York City’s celebrated cultural landscape,” said Susan Freedman, president of Public Art Fund, which puts on art exhibitions all over the city. She said she’s sure Heatherwick’s piece “will become an instant landmark, capturing the imagination of people of all ages and backgrounds.”

Follow Deepti Hajela at www.twitter.com/dhajela and read more of her work at bigstory.ap.org/content/deepti-hajela