A 19-year-old New Jersey resident died this past Saturday evening after jumping from the Vessel, the Heatherwick Studios-designed climbable sculpture in New York City’s Hudson Yards. The New York Police Department confirmed to AN that the person was found unconscious and unresponsive and was taken to Bellevue Hospital, where he was pronounced deceased.
The New York Times and New York Post first reported that the person jumped off of the sixth story of the Vessel around 6 p.m. while the structure was still open to visitors. Onlookers reportedly tried to stop the person from jumping and Hudson Yard employees quickly shielded the body from view.
Since opening last year, the Vessel has received its share of criticism from architects, urbanists, and critics, as has the rest of the Hudson Yards development. Wachs and others have questioned the sculpture’s placement and scale, noting that the artwork, which is meant to provide views of the area, is dwarfed by the office and luxury condo towers surrounding it. The $150 million, 150-foot-tall artwork is composed of a honeycomb-like mesh of stairs with viewing platforms along the way up.
In its coverage, the Times included an excerpt from former AN editor Audrey Wachs’s 2016 article “What do New Yorkers get when privately-funded public art goes big?” In her pointed critique of the then-unfinished sculpture, Wachs wrote: “As one climbs up Vessel, the railings stay just above waist height all the way up to the structure’s top, but when you build high, folks will jump.”
She related the design to the Elmer Holmes Bobst Library at New York University (NYU), which was the site of so many suicides that NYU eventually installed large screens in the building’s soaring central atrium to block people from going over the edge of the railings. In the Times article, Wachs said, “I feel terrible for this person and his family and friends…This is not a critique that you would like to be proven right.”
3/ As trite as it is, the job of the designer is to not only create a structure that’s functional and (hopefully) beautiful, it’s also to anticipate and proactively address issues that may arise when people start using the thing
— Audrey Wachs (@gridwachs) February 3, 2020
AN has reached out to Related, the developer of Hudson Yards, for comment.