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Heatherwick's Vessel closes again at Hudson Yards after a fourth suicide

United States Architecture News - Jul 30, 2021 - 09:52   3637 views

Heatherwick's Vessel closes again at Hudson Yards after a fourth suicide

Heatherwick Studio's speculative Vessel has closed again after a 14-year-old male has jumped from the structure yesterday afternoon, the New York City Police Department confirmed. 

This is the fourth suicide case following the three similar cases happened on the structure in December 2020 and January 2021, while the first case was reported in February 2019. 

According to NBC News, the Vessel has closed again to visitors for further investigation at the scene. 

"It’s hard to really fathom how something like that could happen," said Stephen Ross, the developer of the Hudson Yards

"But I feel terrible for the family," Ross said. "I want to explore every feasible possibility we can, but for now the Vessel is closed," Ross added.

The police records show that a 14-year-old boy jumped from the 8th story of the Vessel at Hudson Yards shortly before 1 p.m. Although the victim has not been identified yet, it was pronounced dead at the scene. 

"We’re distraught about the news of Thursday’s tragedy," Heatherwick Studio told WAC. 

"Working with our partners at Related, the team exhaustively explored physical solutions that would increase safety and they require further rigorous tests, and while we have not identified one yet, we continue to work to identify a solution that is feasible in terms of engineering and installation," the studio added. 

Heatherwick's Vessel closes again at Hudson Yards after a fourth suicide

Image © Michael Moran

The Vessel was reopened in May

After three similar suicide cases the structure was reopened in May, 2021 and Related Companies, the developer of Hudson Yards, had said they implemented new safety measurements to prevent people jumping.

Regarding previous deaths, the company had said that they would consult with suicide-prevention experts and psychiatrists to prevent potential suicides. 

In addition, Related Companies introduced "enhanced guest engagement and screening procedures to detect high-risk behaviors" among visitors. 

The new rules allowed visitors to enter the structure as a minimum of two people or as groups. According to Stephen Ross, the teen was visiting the Vessel with four other members of his family. "A family of five doesn’t fit any profile," Ross said.

Alone individuals were not allowed to visit the structure, and Ross noted that security staff were positioned on multiple levels to look for individuals showing signal of any distress.

Before the opening of the Vessel in May, Related Companies partnered with Lady Gaga's Born this Way Foundation, a non-profit charity supporting the wellness of young people, to create a signage at the entrance for positive messaging to people who are in distress.

In an interview with The Daily Beast, Ross said that he is debating with his team whether the structure will be closed permanently or not.


From interior view of The Vessel. Image © Michael Moran

The height of barriers at The Vessel is still stirring controversy 

Audrey Wachs from The Architect's Newspaper wrote in 2016 that the protective barriers of the structure were not high enough. It is thought that the height of barriers is still a problem and causes these deaths repeatedly to occur on the structure. 

Despite many changes in prevention measures after three suicide cases, the height of barriers along the walkways of 150-foot (46-metre) structure was not increased. 

This still points out to a design problem structurally and it is considered that the most effective measure that can be taken may be a design intervention. 

This change was previously pushed by the Manhattan Community Board 4, and Lowell Kern, the chairman of the board, had said that "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."

The change was also supported by public health experts and elected officials such as Rep. Jerry Nadler and City Council Speaker Corey Johnson and the campaign to increase the height of the barriers began after the first suicide in February 2020.

In May, in the reopening of the Vessel, "The only way to prevent future tragedies is to raise the height of the barriers,” Lowell D. Kern told The New York Times

Kimberly Winston, spokeswoman for the Hudson Yards, said that "We are heartbroken by this tragedy and our thoughts are with the family of the young person who lost their life,” spokeswoman Kimberly Winston said. 

"We are conducting a full investigation," Winston added.

Heatherwick's Vessel closes again at Hudson Yards after a fourth suicide

Image © Michael Moran

This was the fourth death by suicide since the Vessel's opening in 2019

This case marked the fourth suicide case on the Vessel, designed by Thomas Heatherwick, since its opening in 2019. The first suicide was reported in February 2019 and a 19-year-old man from New Jersey jumped from the Vessel.

The second case was reported on December 21, 2020 and a 24-year-old woman from Brooklyn died by jumping from the structure. The third case was reported on January 11, 2021 and a 21-year-old man named Franklin Washington jumped from the Vessel.

Heatherwick Studio unveiled the Vessel in 2016, a giant honeycomb-like sculpture consists of 154 staircases and 80 platforms, zigzagging together to form a web of nearly 2,500 individual stairs.

The Vessel is known as the most Instagrammable hot-spot for tourists and the most popular tourist attraction in New York. The structure was aimed to be "engaging and interactive, meant to be "climbed and explored."

WAC contacted Related Companies but is yet to receive a response.

Top image: The Vessel for Hudson Yards in New York © Michael Moran

> via NBC News