Skybridges: An Overview

Antony Wood
Chief Executive Officer
Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat, Chicago

As many architects and visionaries have shown over a period spanning more than a century, the re-creation of the urban realm in the sky through connections between buildings at height has a vast potential for the enrichment of our cities. To many it seems nonsensical that, although the twentieth, and now twenty-first century, has clearly seen a push towards greater height and urban density in our major urban centers, the ground-pavement level remains almost exclusively the sole physical plane of connection. As the world rapidly urbanizes, greater thought needs to be expended on how horizontal space can be developed at height. Today, new transportation technology, and relatively new structural engineering practices, seem to put horizontal habitat in the sky within reach.

Concentrating on the presenter’s PhD on this subject, entitled Pavements in the Sky: The Use of Skybridges in Tall Buildings, this presentation focuses on the rationale for constructing skybridges from three primary angles: consideration of skybridges as vehicles for urban enrichment, in the sense of making the structures true components of the urban landscape, fusing the special qualities of high-altitude observation and the vibrant life of the street; as design solutions to mitigate the isolating characteristics of tall buildings; and from the perspective of tall building safety, as a means of evacuation. The extensive and rich history of the human ambition to not only build high, but to connect, is also explored. The skybridge’s practical structural implementation and mechanical systems integration challenges, its impact on internal space and elevator planning, as well as its development incentives and disincentives, are also reviewed.

Accompanying PowerPoint Presentation