Why is the Vessel Closed? Too Many Suicides

Greetings, urban explorers and architecture enthusiasts! Today, let’s navigate the intricate narrative of Hudson Yards and its focal point—the Vessel. What began as a symbol of architectural ambition has taken an unforeseen turn, posing the poignant question: “Why is the Vessel closed?”. Unfortunately, the answer is, “Too many suicides.”

In the not-so-distant past, the Far West Side of New York City was a mosaic of repair shops, parking lots, and storage facilities, anchored by a sprawling train yard. Fast forward to the present, and you’ll encounter Hudson Yards—a $25 billion project that metamorphosed the once-unremarkable landscape into an array of glass towers, a high-end shopping mall, and a performance hall. At its core stands the Vessel, a 150-foot-tall labyrinth of interconnected staircases, crafted to foster interaction and exploration.

However, the Vessel’s journey hasn’t been without hurdles. Fashioned with highly polished sheets of copper-colored steel reflecting the square below while deterring vandalism, its cost surged from an initial estimate of $75 million to over $200 million due to unforeseen complexities.

Despite its glistening facade, the Vessel garnered criticism for its “gaudy” appearance and quirky resemblances, likened to a giant shawarma or a mythical giant’s wastepaper basket. Nevertheless, it became a tourist favorite, attracting crowds from upstate New York to Shanghai.

Yet, beneath the glimmer, a somber narrative unfolded. The Vessel, designed for joyful interaction, transformed into a backdrop for tragedy. Three suicides within two years prompted its initial closure in January 2021. Measures were implemented to bolster safety, introducing a buddy system, mental health signage, and a nominal admission fee. Regrettably, these steps proved inadequate, leading to a fourth suicide later that year and another closure that endures to this day.

In the face of adversity, Project Healthy Minds has aligned with Hudson Yards, fostering a commitment to support the well-being of young people. While the Vessel remains shuttered, its ground-level base remains open to visitors, providing a space for contemplation and reflection.

The challenges persist in ensuring the Vessel becomes a secure yet authentic public art piece. Architects and stakeholders find themselves in a stalemate, juggling the imperative for heightened protections with preserving the integrity of the original vision.

The tale unfolds not merely as a cautionary account of architectural intricacies but as a poignant reminder that public spaces, even in their towering grandeur, shoulder the weight of collective responsibility. Amid the shadows of closure, hope endures—a hope that, through united endeavors, the Vessel may one day reopen, symbolizing both resilience and understanding.