By Roli S
I first became aware of the outside world through travel.
It is through travel that I find my own introspective way into becoming a part of it. For my part, I travel not to go anywhere, but to go. I travel for travel’s sake. The great affair is to move and my destination is never a place, but a new way of seeing things.
These days, I am on a tour of the United States of America. It is a vast land of opportunities and travel, alike. There is no way that one can see and understand all of it by taking a few trips to this land of plenty and maximum, but one can always try to focus on a few places of interest to begin the process of understanding and seeing things in a new way.
So, while I was in New York in the first leg of my journey, I wanted to rise above the clichés, I wanted to look beyond the neon lights and high rises to something that would catch my eyes in a special way. That is when I came across the structure called ‘Vessel’ (TKA). While taking the open top bus tour of New York I noticed this structure standing out amidst the other grand and impressive structures New York is famous for.
On further probing, I came to know that this is considered a modern day architectural wonder and came into being when Stephen Ross, the CEO of Hudson Yards’ developer Related Companies, came up with the idea of building something transformational and monumental which ultimately led to the concept for ‘Vessel’.
The unusual shape of the structure, which was opened for public viewing as recently as 15 March, 2019, was intended to make it stand out like a “12-month Christmas tree”. The copper-clad steps, arranged like a jungle gym and modelled after Indian stepwells, can hold 1,000 people at a time.
Heatherwick, the British architect who designed the structure, intended visitors to climb and explore the structure as if it were a jungle gym. At the top of the structure, visitors can even see the famous Hudson River.
It was planned that “Vessel” (TKA) would be the structure’s temporary name during construction, and that a permanent name would be determined later.
As it happens with any piece of art or architecture, this structure has also been accepted with both acclaim and criticism upon its unveiling. Fortune called Vessel “Manhattan’s answer to the Eiffel Tower”, a sentiment echoed by CNN. New York Times stated that the sculpture isa “stairway to nowhere” in the utilitarian sense.
Then, there are other critics who reviewed Vessel more negatively. New York Times architecture critic Michael Kimmelman called Vessel’s exterior “gaudy” and criticised Hudson Yards more generally as a “gated community” that lacked real public space architectural projects. The Vessel project has also been criticised extensively for its photo policy.
But for me, personally, a traveller who is looking to see variety of monuments and structures, architecture is what nature cannot make. It is something unnatural but not something made up. It is created with passion and with the intention that, one day, visitors will find time to come and enjoy its uniqueness, beauty and intrigue, and ‘Vessel’ for me fits the bill. The latest sensation of architectural wonder in New York!