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New York installation by British designer Thomas Heatherwick forced to close following deaths

·2-min read
The Vessel, seen here under construction in 2019 - Demetrius Freeman/Bloomberg
The Vessel, seen here under construction in 2019 - Demetrius Freeman/Bloomberg

A 150-foot high Manhattan art installation built by the British designer Thomas Heatherwick has been closed indefinitely after a 14-year-old boy leapt to his death last week.

It was the fourth suicide at the tourist attraction, known as the Vessel, in less than two years.

The structure was opened in March 2019 as part of a redevelopment project at Hudson Yards on the west of Manhattan on the fringes of the city’s garment district.

Heatherwick is one of Britain's most prominent contemporary designers, and was behind London's fleet of air-conditioned Routemaster busses and the undulating exterior of Guy's Hospital.

Its unique honeycomb structure and sweeping views of the Hudson River made the Vessel, which is estimated to have cost at least $150 million (£108 million), a popular tourist attraction.

The structure gives clear views of the New York skyline
The structure gives clear views of the New York skyline

In February 2020, less than a year after it opened, a 19-year-old man from New Jersey leapt to his death in front of horrified tourists.

The following winter a 24-year-old woman and 21-year-old man also died by suicide after jumping from the 46m high structure.

The structure was shut down for four months following the third suicide.

It was re-opened with a raft of new safety measures.

Lone visitors were banned. A $10 entry fee was imposed by the Hudson Yards owner, Related Companies.

Suicide prevention messages were posted at the entry to the Vessel and additional security staff were hired.

They were posted at various levels of the walkway and instructed to look out for any signs of distress.

But this proved ineffective with the teenager plunging to his death from the eighth storey of the structure last week.

The teenager was part of a group of five visiting the Vessel and the party was unable to prevent him from jumping.

“We thought we did everything that would really prevent this,” Stephen Ross, the chairman of Related Companies, told the Daily Beast.

“It’s hard to really fathom how something like that could happen. But you know, I feel terrible for the family.”

He said that the Vessel would be shut down indefinitely while the company considered further safety measures.

The company’s failure to install higher barriers drew criticism over the weekend, including from an employee of Heatherwick Studio, which designed the Vessel.

“We designed safety barriers for the Vessel a while back,” said the employee. “It’s now time to install these.”

In a statement, Heatherwick Studio said it was exploring further ideas to improve safety.

Kimberly Winston, a spokeswoman for Hudson Yards, said a “full investigation” was being conducted.

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