An problem with the 150-foot-tall Vessel, which was slated to debut in New York City’s dazzling new Hudson Yards area, was highlighted by writer Audrey Wachs in a December 2016 piece for The Architect’s Newspaper.
“As one climbs Vessel, the railings stay just above waist height all the way up to the structure’s top,” she said, “but when you build high, people will leap.”
It turned out to be terribly accurate. Four people have died by suicide at the climbable structure since it opened to the public in March of this year, including a 14-year-old who committed themselves.
Hudson Yards spokesman Kimberly Winston stated, “We are grieved by this loss and our sympathies are with the family of the young kid who lost their life.” “We are currently conducting a thorough inquiry into the matter. The Vessel is presently closed due to unforeseen circumstances.”
Vessel has now been closed twice due to suicides. Because of the third fatality that occurred in January, the Vessel was shut down for many months and reopened in May with additional safety precautions in place.
A decision has yet to be made on whether or not the Vessel will continue to serve as the Instagrammable centerpiece of the largest Manhattan construction since Rockefeller Center. Is there a chance to rescue it?
On March 15, 2019, in New York City, a glimpse of the Vessel at Hudson Yards.
It is clear that its corporate supporters will make every effort to do so. Stephen M. Ross’ billionaire real estate business Related Companies and Heatherwick Studio, the company that created The Vessel, are working together to develop “concrete” answers to the problem.
According to the studio, “together with our colleagues at Related, the team thoroughly examined physical alternatives that would enhance safety and they require more rigorous tests.”
One approach would be to raise the barricades several feet. Many high-rise constructions utilize physical protection, such as barriers or nets, in an attempt to keep people from falling to their deaths from heights. It is estimated that more than a thousand individuals have died by suicide over the Golden Gate Bridge in California throughout the years.
A simple physical barrier or net, however, only partially solves the problem.
Architecture and design revolve around the idea that the built environment affects how we feel and behave. There’s also a more basic problem with the Vessel — surrounded on all sides by concrete, glass buildings and obnoxious commercialism — says Jacob Alspector, a prominent lecturer at The City College of New York’s Spitzer School of Architecture.
His description of the Vessel reminded him of an MC Escher nightmare. “In a way, it’s relentless. It’s garish and chilly. It’s a rush… Not the most welcoming, life-affirming, and inclusive place. It’s a little bare. Is there a point to it all? Is it enough to walk up and down a flight of stairs?”
People who are estranged from the world may not be helped by such an encounter, he said.
To what extent do architects and designers strive to prevent suicide?
It’s a challenge Alspector is well-aware of.
On the other hand, Bobst Library at New York University (less than two miles from where The Vessel is located) had a comparable makeover a decade ago.
Students leaped to their deaths in the open atrium of the library in 2003. This caused the school to construct an eight foot high glass fence, but in 2009, another kid climbed over the fence and plunged to his death. As a result, NYU sought a permanent solution to the situation.
It was a set of laser-cut aluminum panels that contained the room while allowing sunlight to stream through in an elaborate pattern that became the Bobst Pixel Veil, which debuted in 2012.
In his CNN interview, Alspector said, “It’s an example of turning something negative into a wonderful thing.” To get out of a cage, you have to change something to make it appear like you’re not in one.
Elmer Holmes Bobst Library’s atrium is lined with perforated metal screens.
Die Todesfälle at the library was mentioned by Wachs, an investigative journalist, as an example of what may go wrong in 2016. They “seem not to have learnt from Bobst, or from the city’s bridges and famous towering structures,” she wrote.
The Bloor Viaduct in Toronto is another example of a possible solution to this problem. In 2003, after hundreds of individuals committed suicide at the viaduct, local officials commissioned the erection of the Luminous Veil, a barrier made out of light-up steel rods.
Architect and design platform RVTR describe it as “a deterrence to suicide as well as a haptic field of reflection.”
It was believed that the Luminous Veil would stop suicides at the Bloor Viaduct, and it did. Although the barrier was erected in 2010, a 2010 research revealed that the suicide rate stayed the same for the first few years afterward, suggesting that the suicides just relocated elsewhere.
But the 2017 study revealed that suicides by leaping had reduced over time in the city, with no rise in suicides by other ways in the same time period.
There are fewer deaths when you limit people’s access to lethal means, Sinyor added. Those who are suicidal might find alternative methods to cope if a means of death is not readily available in the time.
Sinyor told CNN that the findings demonstrate that suicide prevention requires more than simply a single barrier. The media coverage at the time, he said, promoted the damaging idea that suicide individuals aren’t worth rescuing, which was condemned by the author.
A successful suicide prevention program must include suicide prevention barriers, Sinyor added, as well as safe public messages.
“Suicide is never necessary,” he said. “Because of this, it is avoidable. Help is available for those who are in need; those who are in need should reach out.”
The Vessel has a more serious problem than meets the eye.
When the vessel reopened in May with enhanced safety procedures, safe public messaging was a major element of the strategy. As an alternative to making physical alterations, the Vessel levied a $10 admission fee, required individuals to come with a companion, employed personnel and security to monitor for distress, and placed up signs advising visitors how to obtain help instead.
Because there was no physical barrier in place, this week’s tragedy exposed the weakness in that design.” According to police, the 14-year-old boy had been with his family when he died, CNN affiliate WCBS said.
Lowell Kern, chairman of the Manhattan Community Board Four, told CNN that raising the gates was the “obvious” solution.
It’s easy to get help by following these steps:
US National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, 1-800-273-8255.
International Association for Suicide Prevention and Befrienders Worldwide also give contact information.
“If anyone can simply jump over a four-foot-high barrier, I don’t see the sense in erecting one. From an aesthetic standpoint, this looks like a straightforward solution “Then, he shot back at her.
Related Companies, on the other hand, did not — and the deadly occurrences that have occurred afterwards have verified his worries. In his words, “I’ve never felt so betrayed when I’ve been proven correct.”
For raised platforms, a taller barrier is not usually required. Although there is a modest barrier at the Guggenheim Museum, no suicides have been reported in that open location.
According to Alspector, an architect and lecturer, “I think it’s because the place is just so lovely, amazing, affirming, wonderful.” No one has ever described the Vessel as beautiful to me.”
An 8-foot-tall barrier at the Vessel would not be enough for him, he added, considering that it was ineffectual at the NYU library. It should be compassionate, life-affirming, and not like a fishbowl, he remarked. “It’s a very difficult design challenge,” he says.
The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline may be reached at 1-800-273-8255 or by texting TALK to 741741. Contact information is also provided by the International Association for Suicide Prevention and Befrienders Worldwide.