Retail and art converge at Hudson Yards

 

When Hudson Yards opened recently in New York City, its premiere was more than a celebration of the megamall.

In fact, public art, and the arts, in general, are just as prominent players at the complex as are the over 100 luxury, flagship and specialty stores, including New York’s first and only Neiman Marcus.

 The vessel, the massive outdoor public art project located at Hudson Yards in New York City, is attracting shoppers and visitors alike to see the display. (Photo courtesy of  @lolifeyb )
The vessel, the massive outdoor public art project located at Hudson Yards in New York City, is attracting shoppers and visitors alike to see the display. (Photo courtesy of @lolifeyb )

At centers stage at the complex is a big, bold and basket-shaped structure called the “Vessel.” At 15 stories, weighing 600 tons and filled with 2,500 climbable steps, some may see a massive jungle gym, others a gigantic honeycomb.

The creation of Thomas Heatherwick, 46, an acclaimed and controversial British designer, the structure is the centerpiece of the mammoth Far West Side development.  The $150 million, bronzed-steel and concrete structure is quite the conversation piece.

The design reflects Mr. Heatherwick’s belief that city natives are always looking for their next workout. “New Yorkers have a fitness thing,” he said. (It will test many city folk who can barely climb into their Ubers, but there will be an elevator for anyone unable to reach the top.)

Inside the piece, the 154 interconnecting staircases may put visitors in mind of a drawing by M.C. Escher, especially given that the open-topped structure will have 80 viewing landings.

“It’s a leap of faith in terms of scale,” said Susan K. Freedman, president of the Public Art Fund. “I admire the ambition. You can’t be small in New York.”

One of Mr. Heatherwick’s main goals for the piece is to raise people significantly above ground level so they can see the city — and one another — in a new way. “The power of the High Line is the changed perspective on the world,” Mr. Heatherwick said.

The interactive feature of “Vessel” was partly a reaction to what Mr. Heatherwick sees as previous failures in public projects: Plop art. “We’ve gotten used to these 1960s, 1970s plazas with obligatory big artworks plunked down,” he said.

“Vessel” is only 50 feet in diameter at its base, rising to 150 feet at the top, meaning that it has a “small bum,” Mr. Heatherwick said, and does not take over the plaza’s ground level.

For Mr. Heatherwick, “Vessel” represents his firm’s focus on doing innovative work for the public to enjoy. “I’m doing this project because it’s free, and for all New Yorkers,” he said.

As part of Hudson Yards, The Shed is a destination for all things art.

 The Shed, a destination for all things art, will open at Hudson Yards on April 5th. (Hudson Yards)
The Shed, a destination for all things art, will open at Hudson Yards on April 5th. (Hudson Yards)

Set to open on April 5th, The Shed brings together established and emerging artists in fields ranging from hip hop to classical music, painting to digital media, theater to literature, and sculpture to dance in an unprecedented movable structure that adapts to support all kinds of inventive work under one roof.

According to its website, “The Shed commissions original works of art, across all disciplines, for all audiences. We bring together established and emerging artists in fields ranging from hip hop to classical music, painting to digital media, theater to literature, and sculpture to dance.

Our home, The Bloomberg Building—designed by Diller Scofido + Renfro, Lead Architect, and Rockwell Group, Collaborating Architect—is an unprecedented movable structure that adapts to support ambition and invention in all creative fields.

By minimizing social and economic barriers to entry, The Shed is a warm, welcoming space for innovation and unique artistic experiences. By offering access and insight into the creative process, The Shed will forge deep bonds between their artists and audiences. Driven by the belief that access to art is a right, and not a privilege, The Shed will present exciting, engaging experiences for the community and our time.”

The Shed is located where the High Line meets Hudson Yards, adjacent to 15 Hudson Yards and bordering the Public Square and Gardens.

Retail shopping, of course, is the heart of Hudson Yards.

When The Shops at Hudson Yards officially opened a few weeks ago, it brought to the area a mix of fast-fashion retailers including Zara and H&M, high-end footwear names like Stuart Weitzman and classic New York brands such as Kate Spade, according to Footwear News.

“It’s certainly a very high-profile project — not just because it’s a development, but from our perspective, it’s really about a brand-new neighborhood in New York City,” said Chris Heywood, EVP of global communications at NYC & Co. “What we like to remind people is that New York is one of the very few destinations in the world that continually evolves and reinvents itself time and time again. This is proof of that.”

When it opened, high-rolling international tourists, window-shopping locals and out-of-state visitors crowded the hallways of the seven-story glass-and-steel enclosure and its surrounding commercial spaces. In an era that has posed challenges for physical stores, Related Cos.’ newest and most ambitious project has the potential to either transform brick-and-mortal retail or collect dust in the off-the-beaten-path Midtown West.

At the southernmost part of the High Line, passersby and sightseers formerly would find the Whitney Museum of American Art and an assembly of boutiques and galleries at the intersection of Washington and Gansevoort streets. At the northernmost point, they would only discover an empty swath of land overlooking the Hudson River.

But the Shops at Hudson Yards and its ancillary residential spaces have given rise to a new neighborhood — one that’s just blocks away from the highly trafficked Midtown areas of Times Square and Herald Square, accessible through the No. 7 subway station and the popular High Line park itself.

“When you can get a combination of a unique assortment of retailers that aren’t already present in the New York metro area — and you already have a high-traffic area in that people who walk on that promenade go over to visit — it offers people the opportunity to be able to see yet another shopping area that’s going to compete with the inner city and even some of the suburbs,” said Marshal Cohen, chief industry adviser of The NPD Group Inc.

“Now they won’t have to make a special trip out to New Jersey or Long Island to get to a Neiman Marcus,” he added. “The advantage is that those who don’t have the time or the transportation to get out to those locations now have the ability to do it.”