Most Influential Projects 2020

18 Hudson Yards

Urban Development | North America

For rethinking the mixed-use urban neighborhood in one of the world’s largest cities

Related Companies Chairman Stephen M. Ross calls his US$25 billion, 28-acre (11-hectare) Hudson Yards development “New York as it should be, with everything you want at your doorstep.” Agree or disagree—and there are plenty in both categories—Hudson Yards is the largest mixed-use private real estate venture in U.S. history. By reimagining a previously uninhabited, ho-hum stretch of Manhattan in New York, New York, USA, the project team unleashed a bold experiment in large-scale urban planning—a city within a city that blends office towers, shopping mall, an arts center and residential skyscrapers at an unprecedented scale. That live-work-play combo makes Hudson Yards an emerging case study for perhaps the most buzzed-about concept for post-pandemic urban planning: the “15-minute city,” providing everything urbanites crave in close proximity.

Though some have criticized the opulent, more-is-more enclave as a symbol of excess, others praise the megaproject’s ambition and innovative design. Here’s a tour of Hudson Yard additions—from The Shed, which opened in April 2019, to skyscrapers still to come—that are reshaping Manhattan’s skyline:

The Shed

The goal was to create a space to support the city’s arts community for decades to come—without knowing exactly what would one day be needed, says Elizabeth Diller, co-founder and partner at Diller Scofidio + Renfro, the architecture firm that designed the US$475 million center.

“The challenge was: How do you build a permanent building for a discipline that is constantly evolving?” she says. While there were fixed requirements—structural loading capacity, electrical loading capacity, climate control—the team was determined to prove that a flexible structure “can have a strong architectural character.”

Diller and her team collaborated with architecture firm Rockwell Group for the initial proposal, emphasizing a space that could house both performing and visual arts. The final product, designed by Diller’s firm, can literally shape-shift to meet the demands of whatever exhibit or cultural event is taking place. “We had to make sure the building had no fat, only muscle, so it could house all the creative disciplines under one roof,” she says. 

The eight-story building’s most notable feature is a 120-foot (36-meter) telescopic shell that rolls out on eight small wheels to expand the size of the event space. “The total surface contact for each wheel is the size of the palm of your hand,” Diller says. “And it uses the horsepower of one Prius engine.”

The shell can be fully extended across the adjacent plaza at the push of a button doubling the footprint of the fixed building in just five minutes. Guillotine doors on three sides of the building are lifted by electric drum winches to create an open-air pavilion that is light-, sound and temperature-controlled—with room for 3,000 guests. And it’s eco-friendly: “You don’t have to heat or cool the large space if you’re not  using it,” she says. “You can simply nest it.”

Instead of the usual heavy glass facade, The Shed features ethylene tetrafluoroethylene pillows filled with low-pressure air that provide the thermal properties of glass at 1/100th of the weight. The material provides an aesthetic boost, too, making the building look a bit like a hot air balloon ready to float free from the surrounding skyscrapers.

Inside, the gallery spaces offer unobstructed views, separated by glass curtain walls supported by wires. The Shed is already viewed by many as a one-of-a-kind arts center helping other cities reimagine how artists showcase their work. “Though exuberant, The Shed is also humble in a way,” Diller says. “It’s just hardware to support the software that will be brought by the artists and curators.”

Related Sponsors and Organizations

  • Capella Garcia Architecture
  • Diller Scofidio + Renfro
  • Foster + Partners
  • Icrave
  • José Andrés
  • Kohn Pedersen Fox
  • Mt. Sinai Hospital
  • Oxford Properties Group
  • Related Companies
  • Rockwell Group
  • Thomas Heatherwick
The Vessel

This US$150 million interactive sculpture, conceived by U.K. designer Thomas Heatherwick, rises like a massive beehive from the center of the Hudson Yards public square. A painted steel frame polished with a copper-colored steel skin surrounds 154 interconnecting flights of stairs offering visitors a novel way to view the city from endless vantage points.

Mercado Little Spain

This sprawling food hall was conceived by superstar chef José Andrés as an homage to the historic mercados of his homeland Spain. Designed as a series of “streets” by Capella Garcia Architecture of Barcelona, Spain with New York experiential firm ICrave, the 35,000-square foot (3,252-squaremeter) space features 15 food kiosks, a beer hall and three restaurants.

15 Hudson Yards

Another collaboration between Diller Scofidio + Renfro and Rockwell Group, the 88-floor residential skyscraper overlooks the Hudson River and features 285 residences, more than one-third of which have been designated as affordable units.

50 Hudson Yards

Set to be complete in 2022, 50 Hudson Yards spans a full city block. Designed by Foster + Partners to LEED gold standards, the tower will offer office spaces with private entrances and lobbies, outdoor terraces and valet parking. BlackRock and Facebook are slated to be among its future tenants.

The Shops & Restaurants at Hudson Yards

The massive mall boasts 720,000 square feet (66,890 square meters) of retail space and is expected to welcome 20 million visitors per year.

30 Hudson Yards & The Edge

Local architectural firm Kohn Pedersen Fox designed 30 Hudson Yards as a complement to 10 Hudson Yards (which opened in 2019 and 2016, respectively)—with the two skyscrapers tilting in opposing directions.

The wow factor: The Edge, the highest sky deck in the Western Hemisphere, cantilevered about 80 feet (24 meters) out from the 100th floor. The attraction opened in March, two days before the entire city shut down due to COVID-19; upon reopening months later, The Edge boasted a slew of new protective measures, from touchless ticketing to temperature checks, all instituted in consultation with Mt. Sinai Hospital.