When hearing the word “skybridge” or “elevated walkway,” what often comes to mind is a narrow, glassed-in pathway perhaps crossing between two office buildings or hospital concourses; a narrow artery whose only purpose seems to be keeping people dry and away from cars as they walk from meeting to meeting. But this wasn’t always the case - in the 1960s, skyways were seen as radical urban inventions that would bring city circulation into the 3rd dimension. Championed in the United States by architect Victor Gruen, following ideals espoused by both CIAM and Team 10 in Europe, the skyway movement took hold in cities all over the world with varying degrees of success, but rarely with the fluid connections between levels originally envisioned by its designers.
The past decade had seen a renewed interest in the skybridge as an architectural element. Projects like Steven Holl’s Linked Hybrid complex in Beijing (2009) and Horizontal Skyscraper in Shenzhen (2009) feature elevated circulation connecting users to various buildings within a complex. Proposed dual towers by Dutch firm MVRDV in Seoul (2011) and BIG’s Cross # Towers (2015) are also connected via bridges containing public program. But where these designs utilize the skybridge successfully, they still remain independent entities rather than circulatory networks. Perhaps the best recent example is New York’s High Line (2009-2014), where the elevated park also works to navigate pedestrians through Manhattan’s west side.
This new interest brings us an opportunity to look back at the ways skyways have succeeded (in places such as Hong Kong) and failed (as in Cincinnati, alongside many American cities). In this article from Places Journal, Jennifer Yoos and Vincent James explore the origins and the political climates that surrounded the inception of elevated systems in cities such as Minneapolis/St. Paul, Dallas, Calgary and Hong Kong, and systems that could have been in New York City. As city density continues to increase and technology evolves, skyways may return as a way to bring public space to all levels of the city.
Read the entire article, “The Multilevel Metropolis,” here.