Heatherwick's Vessel at Hudson Yards claims ownership of visitor photos
The Vessel by Heatherwick Studio

Heatherwick's Vessel at Hudson Yards claims ownership of visitors' photography

The Heatherwick Studio-designed Vessel at New York's Hudson Yards is planning to maintain rights to any photography taken of the public structure, a move that has prompted an outcry from critics on social media.

The temporarily named Vessel opened to the public last weekend, inviting visitors with timed free tickets to climb its lattice of 154 staircases and capture moments against the Instagrammable backdrop.

However, contention ensued following closer inspection of Hudson Yards Terms and Conditions of the rights of the images, revealing that they will all belong to ERY Vessel LLC – the company responsible for running the huge public structure.

Writer and critic Tom Dyckhoff and designer Adam Nathaniel Furman were among those who took to social media to criticise Hudson Yards' stipulations.

Vessel is "not what public space should be"

"Any photos or videos u [sic] take in Heatherwick's staircase to nowhere r [sic] not yours they're the property of the developer," Furman tweeted. "I'm surprised they don't require you to pass on custody of all your future offspring."

"This is NOT what public space should be," he added, triggering other figures in the architecture and design community to weigh in.

Dyckhoff described the situation as "astonishing" in a Tweet posted in response to Furman. "If you take any photos of videos of New York's new 'Vessel', by Thomas Heatherwick, at #HudsonYards you do not own them," he said.

Architect Mark Owen of London practice POW also replied: "But it isn't a public space is it?! It's a shiny attraction to get people into the place to buy overpriced coffee from commercial units?!"

Furman posted his comment on 18 March 2019, along with a screenshot of clause nine, titled Content, from the online terms and conditions page. This outlined "irrevocable, unrestricted, worldwide, perpetual, royalty-free, sub licensable and transferable right and license to use, display, reproduce, perform, transmit, publish and distribute such photographs, audio recordings, or video footage for any purpose whatsoever in any and all media".

Hudson Yards retracts controversial clause

This clause, however, has since been removed from the website. Dezeen contacted Hudson Yards for a comment on the update but is yet to receive a response.

The details now appear to have been adapted into clauses seven and eight, called Notice of Filming and Recording, and My Social Media Posts. The latter confirms that any images posted to social media belong to Vessel, without any "compensation" for the photographer. Photos published to social sites, like Instagram, are typically considered public property.

Notice of Filming and Recording authorises the company to photograph or video visitors, with permission to "store the Recordings on a database and transfer the Recording to third parties in conjunction with security and marketing procedures undertaken by Company".

Hudson Yards development meets mixed response

Heatherwick's huge structure of interconnected stair flights and 80 landings sits at the heart of Hudson Yards – the largest private development in the US.

Due to be renamed following a public competition, Vessel opened with the rest of the plaza and gardens, and the retail and entertainment provision that make up the mega development's first phase.

Much anticipation surrounded the project's completion, however Alan G Brake described it as "a billionaire's fantasy of the future of city life" in an Opinion column for Dezeen.

Photography is by Michael Moran for Related Companies.