New York (Telephost) - Thomas Heatherwick, the British architect, has unveiled a plan for what has been dubbed “New York’s Eiffel Tower” - a £114 million giant staircase, soaring 16 storeys high in the centre of Manhattan.
Mr Heatherwick, designer of the London 2012 Olympic torch, was commissioned to build a structure at the heart of what will be the city's largest development since the Rockefeller Center was built in the 1930s.
He described his creation as a huge climbing frame – 600 tonnes, 154 individual flights of stairs, 80 landings, and with 2,500 steps.
The structure is the centrepiece of a $200 million, 22-acre redevelopment of the city’s Hudson Yards – an industrial area in the west of Manhattan, encircled by the High Line walkway.
“In a city full of eye-catching structures, our first thought was that it shouldn’t just be something to look at,” said Mr Heatherwick.
“Instead we wanted to make something that everybody could use, touch, relate to.”
Currently under construction in Monfalcone, Italy, the bronzed-steel and concrete pieces that make up what Mr Heatherwick has dubbed “Vessel” will not be assembled on site until next year – but were displayed at a glitzy launch in New York on Wednesday, attended by Bill de Blasio, mayor of New York.
The project, which will be completed in 2024, is funded by billionaire developer Stephen Ross’s Related Companies, which is developing Hudson Yards with Oxford Properties Group.
When completed it will accommodate offices, homes, shops, a school and hotel, and 14 acres of gardens, walkways and squares.
Mr Heatherwick, who is also working on the redevelopment of Google’s headquarters in California and the Thames garden bridge, said he was inspired by an old flight of stairs.
“When I was a student, I fell in love with an old discarded flight of wooden stairs outside a local building site,” he said. “It caught my imagination and I loved that is was part furniture and part infrastructure. You could climb up stairs, jump on them, dance on them, get tired on them and then plonk yourself down on them.”
And he said he was excited to see how the city’s residents use it.
“I’m doing this project because it’s free, and for all New Yorkers,” he said.
“I’m just itching to see a thousand people on it.”