Heatherwick’s Vessel closed to the public after third suicide in less than a year

The community board has asked the developer to raise the height of platform barriers to prevent further deaths

Thomas Heatherwick's The Vessel at Hudson Yards Photo: T. Tseng

Thomas Heatherwick’s spiralling climbable sculpture The Vessel in Manhattan’s Hudson Yards closed to the public indefinitely on Tuesday after a 21-year-old man who jumped to his death became the third suicide in less than a year at the site.

A spokesman for the developer Related Companies, which commissioned the 150ft sculpture as a centrepiece of the $25 billion Hudson Yards complex, said that the structure was “temporarily closed” while the company consulted with experts on how to prevent future suicides. But Lowell Kern, the chairman for the local community board told The New York Times that The Vessel would remain closed “until further notice” and would reopen to visitors after the developer presented these preventative measures.

The Vessel—a signature ambitious design by Heatherwick made up of 154 interlinked staircases and 80 platforms, adding up to nearly 2,500 steps—opened to the public in 2019, to mixed reactions. The community board asked the Related Companies to reconsider the design after the first suicide last February, when a 19-year-old man jumped from one of the platforms. “Because the Vessel’s chest-high barrier is all that separates the platform from the edge, the likelihood of a similar, terribly sad loss of life cannot be ignored,” Kern wrote in a letter to the developer. On 21 December, a 24-year-old woman also jumped to her death from the sculpture.

Kern told The New York Times that the board believes the best way to prevent further suicide attempts is to make the barrier higher, even if this alters Heatherwick’s work. “After three suicides, at what point does the artistic vision take a back seat to safety?” Kern said.

• If you are in crisis, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255), or contact the Crisis Text Line by texting TALK to 741741