All the images of Hudson Yards: Phase 1 that I had seen before visiting were smartly taken Instagram pictures or slick renderings. Coming into New York on the bus from Boston, my first in-person glimpse was underwhelming: Vessel, a shining beehive-shaped series of Escheresque stairs, dwarfed by the development’s towers, surrounded by construction equipment, and captioned with a vinyl banner: “HERE WE GO #helloHudsonYards.”
After deboarding and grabbing a quick lunch in Midtown, I walked toward the no-man’s land of BoltBus departures, Penn Station, and the Javits Center. I expected Vessel, designed by Thomas Heatherwick, to act as a beacon: reflecting light, visible from sidewalks, guiding me to it. In reality, it was in densely developed Manhattan. Not remembering the signature towers vividly enough for them to work as beacons, I had to use equal parts mental map and GPS to track down the site.
I found it easily enough. Hello, Hudson Yards.
Once on official turf, Vessel was more like what I had expected it to be: a polished self-contained object among the high-rises. Vessel’s surroundings—landscape, hardscape, architecture, wayfinding—were still coming together, not yet occupied by luxury tenants and residents. Still, the site managed to be somewhat off-putting and inaccessible.
Wayfinding was scarce (so were trash and recycling receptacles). It took some hovering around the base of the object to figure out that a black-clad man addressing a small group of people was a Vessel authority. Approaching him, I was pointed to an easy-to-miss little-marked ticket stand. After getting back in line with my ticket, I was told I would have to finish or dispose of my iced coffee before I would be admitted.
I thought this was dumb because I had been thinking about Vessel as a piece of public art; instead, it was the sculpture-structure version of a privately owned public space. It is a creative work—arguably the only thing in the new luxury neighborhood that is not a residence or a business—and I expected to engage with it without being ticketed, screened, and told what to do. While finishing my coffee, I took the opportunity to do a couple of laps around the base of Vessel. I could check out only the exterior of The Shed, a cultural center not yet open to the public. The tulips were very nice.