The Vessel in New York City remains indefinitely closed, after measures fail to prevent a fourth suicide on the art structure in only four years.
The Vessel is the centerpiece of the Hudson Yards urban development, a 150-foot-tall assembly of 154 interconnected staircases in a graceful vase-like shape. It’s meant for visitors to climb, crossing and re-crossing each others’ paths as they spiral or zig-zag to the highest tier. There are even ramps and an elevator, to make it accessible to as many as possible. Its pieces were fabricated in Italy and assembled on site in the Far West Side, with a great deal of care for stability and safety. The copper, glass, and cement honeycomb-like design glows in a broad courtyard of the Hudson Yards Public Square, surrounded by blue-tinted glass towers.
Fabrication problem and the meticulous attention to safety inflated the projected cost of the construction of The Vessel from $75 million to a reality of almost $230 million. But the creators did not account for how little railings do to protect those who don’t want to be protected.
The first person to jump from the Vessel to their death was a teenager who jumped from the sixth floor of the structure, only 5 months after it opened. Within a year, two more had committed suicide in the same manner, and the structure was closed while people sought a strategy to prevent further tragedies.
A suicide prevention expert suggested netting or raising the glass barriers to shoulder height, but those ideas were disregarded as they would interfere with the look of The Vessel. Instead, when it reopened, visitors were not allowed to explore alone, climbing was no longer free, and security was present on the structure at all times. Still, only two months after the reopening, a 14-year-old boy stepped away from his parents’ side and jumped to his death.
After this fourth suicide, access to The Vessel has been indefinitely closed. The owner is considering either safety nets, or permanent closure to the public.
Photo: emin kuliyev / Shutterstock