Since “skywalks” evoke Jedi masters, and “gangways” indicate pirates, the appearance of these architectural features in contemporary structures makes the mundane task of traveling from building to building an absolute adventure. Strung between two visually disconnected masses, a gangway becomes an urban bridge, giving pedestrians a soaring understanding of a building’s elevation. Combining the best features of a cantilever (but with support!) with sweeping views (but on both sides!), what's not to love about these aerial pathways?
A surprising number of the world’s top firms have used these floating paths to link buildings in a complex, either alluding to the size of the project or the budget. Or perhaps (like us!) they're addicted to the exceptional quality of these spaces—the moment when the building drops away and the solid can be distinguished from the void. Here are some of our favorite instances of gangways, urban planks, and skywalks from the Architizer database.
Steven Holl's proposed walkway spans the entire entrance to the Copenhagen Harbor(!), joining two giant cantilevers "like a handshake." Employing all the cable-stay elements and drama of a vehicular bridge, the massive pedestrian gangway will take advantage of its unique positioning not only by providing spectacular views, but also by harvesting enough wind power to provide lighting for public spaces. The movement of air will also aid in natural ventilation for the entire building. The site at the water's edge lets the towers employ a seawater heating/cooling system.
Clearly, Steven Holl is an ardent fan of the skywalk. Like a group of friends holding hands, the towers of this Beijing complex surround a new kind of public space for the Chinese environment—one that is porous and inviting rather than defensive and exclusive. The bridging elements add layers to this "open city within a city," not only offering unusual views, but also introducing rich programs to connect the eight residential towers and hotel. Perched up there in the sky, you can find a swimming pool, a fitness room, a café, and a gallery.
Floating above the dry dock, the bridges in this project let the users interact with the space without disturbing the heritage structure. The three double-level walkways provide visitors with shortcuts through the museum and serve as an urban connection. The harbor bridge blocks the dock and acts as a harbor promenade; the auditorium (also a bridge) joins the adjacent Culture Yard with the Kronborg Castle; and the last connects to the node of the main entrance.
Both Julien de Smedt Architects and the Bjarke Ingels Group have used elevated walkways separately in other projects, so it's not surprising that their joint project would too. The moments where the ground appears to fall from under the building emphasize the luscious rolling landscape. Where it is not lofted, the building dips into the ground, allowing the lawn to completely engulf the structure in certain moments. This intimate relation with the landscape provides for a healing environment, evoking safety and calm.
In contrast, this much smaller project by JDS features a single elevated crossing that is intentionally as disjointed from the primary building as possible. The architects converted a run-down factory into a community center mainly for immigrant youth, with minimal, subtle interventions, save for the red beacon on the roof. Teetering on the two curved peaks, the bright red container provides a raised terrace for the children and room for the "Ghetto Noise" sound studio. The floating space further allows for the half-pipe underneath to be used as a sun deck, letting the kids playfully inhabit the building at all levels.
Joining the likes of Disney Concert Hall, Museum of Contemporary Art, and the Cathedral of our Lady of the Angels in the Grand Avenue cultural corridor of downtown LA, this school needed to stand out. Coop Himmelb(l)au used this opportunity to communicate Los Angeles's commitment to art through the creative forms of the three buildings of the complex. One of the features is the spiraling elevated ramp that the architects claim "serves as a widely visible sign for the arts in the city and a point of identification for the students."
Wanting to open up the typical housing block, buildings exceed the height of the average complex while remaining at the same density in this complex in Vienna. This allows for the creation of "reserve spaces" within the buildings that form recreational spaces like air pockets at various levels of the complex. The gangways that span between the spaces act as a circulatory stitch between moments of interest.
Designed by Moshe Safdie for Las Vegas Sands Corporation, this casino was never going to be a shy project. Not only does it cut an imposing figure in the Singapore skyline, with its three imposing towers, but the "skybridge" in this case is actually a "SkyPark," spanning the tops of all three 55-story buildings. The one-hectare soaring space comes equipped with an infinity pool, landscaped gardens, dining facilities, an entertainment venue, and obviously some of the best views in Singapore.
One of the first projects of an urban renewal project in Ravenna, Italy, this residential building has left porous openings for future development. The undulating heights of the massing comes as a result of extensive solar studies. Following this logic, the "lived-in bridge" of this complex also provides a way to connect the blocks while giving the central courtyard a sense of spatial enclosure.
Connecting a large dormitory complex, the bridges in this project provide residents with an alternative to continuously climbing the stairs. Furthermore, the almost-whimsical appearance of the spindly structures means that they also activate the courtyard beneath, arranged just close enough to the ground to let people communicate from above and below.