This Friday, the Hudson Yards finally opens after years of planning, construction, anticipation, and skepticism. The 28-acre development on the Far West Side has been described as a "Billionaires' Fantasy City"—it's a shiny, starchitect-designed $25 billion complex of pricey retail, office, and residential space—but at the center is a free, public art installation that beckons visitors to walk on 154 connected stairways that ascend 150 feet. It's the Vessel.

Vessel is a counterpoint, with its copper-clad steel structure that resembles a beehive with great ventilation, to the surrounding glass towers, and it was specifically commissioned by Related Co. chairman Stephen Ross (his company is behind the whole development). Ross hoped to have something akin to the Eiffel Tower to anchor Hudson Yards and commissioned British designer Thomas Heatherwick to create a "landmark" for the space.

Heatherwick said in a statement when the project was announced, "When I was a student, I fell in love with an old discarded flight of wooden stairs outside a local building site. 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." He has also cited India's Chand Baori, a 13-story stepwall that descends into the ground, as an inspiration, noting that he wondered if he could create steps that go in the opposite direction, to the sky.

In addition to the 154 staircases that interlock with each other, there are nearly 2,500 individual steps and 80 landings. Hudson Yards, which calls it an "interactive artwork," notes that Vessel acts as a "focal point where people can enjoy new perspectives of the city and one another from different heights, angles and vantage points." Heatherwick's studio also offers that the staircases will "create a personal rhythm in each visitor." Also, the vertical climb up almost adds up to a one mile (there is also an elevator along Vessel's interior).

Gothamist sent a drone over and into the Vessel on Saturday to get all the sick angles —FAA licensed drone pilot Jake Dobkin said, "From above, it really reminds me of the Sarlacc pit in Return of the Jedi. Flying straight down into it kind of made my hands sweat."

Admission is free, but visitors will need tickets, which can be booked in advance (some tickets will also be made available day of).