By Carter B. Horsley
In cities such as Minneapolis
and Milwaukee, skybridges are designed to offer pedestrians shelter
from the cold; in Houston, they are designed to offer pedestrians
and workers shelter from the humidity.
New Yorkers are a hardy breed,
mostly impervious to such climatic concerns. Still, most like
to take the shortest route to get where they are going, and so
the city has a few skybridges snuggled between its edifices to
facilitate the scurrying masses.
Several were erected years
ago, and are now at risk of being torn down as part of new developments.
One is the skybridge on 24th
Street between Madison and Park avenues that joins the 10th floor
of 1 Madison Ave. to the eighth floor of 11 Madison Ave. The architect
behind the Jewish Museum in Berlin and the master plan for the
redevelopment of ground zero, Daniel Libeskind, is reportedly
designing a new skyscraper at 1 Madison Ave., the famous clock
tower built by the Metropolitan Life Insurance Co. It is not clear
what will become of the skybridge.
Another skybridge on 24th Street
connects 200 Fifth Ave. and 1107 Broadway, the buildings comprising
the former Toy Center.
L&L Holding Co. bought
200 Fifth Ave., which it plans to convert to Class A office space,
and Tessler Development Co. bought 1107 Broadway for conversion
to 180 condominium apartments. The future of the skybridge, which
was erected in 1968, is not known. Perhaps the city's most imposing
skybridge connects the former Gimbel's building to an annex across
32nd Street, between Sixth and Seventh avenues. The three-story,
copper-clad skybridge, erected in 1925, is in close proximity
to the redevelopments planned for the Farley Post Office. In fact,
it is just to the east of the Hotel Pennsylvania, which landlord
Vornado Realty Trust is considering demolishing; the new Epic
rental apartment tower, and a major new residential building planned
at 885 Sixth Ave.
In addition to existing skybridges,
there are new ones in the works: Two of the five ventures bidding
on the redevelopment of the MTA-owned rail yards near the Hudson
River, between 30th and 33rd streets, have included them in their
In Brookfield Properties's
plan, the two residential towers designed by Diller Scofidio +
Renfro, in the northwest corner of the site, are dramatically
tied together in midair by two enclosed skybridges for dog-pulled
people and joggers too lazy to go outside.
Steven Holl has designed the
plan for Extell Development. Its tallest component is a cluster
of three towers in the northeast corner of the site that are staggered
downward in height toward the Hudson River and bridged at the
top in an angled asymmetrical skybridge, the most unusual of the
buildings in all the submitted plans. In making a presentation
of Extell's proposal last month, Mr. Holl noted that the bridged
top of the three legs of the structure improves security by offering
alternate escape routes in emergencies, a concept that some designers
used in their submissions for rebuilding ground zero.
Although the two skybridges
in the MTA redevelopment proposals are dramatic, they cannot compare
aesthetically with the sensational but small "Bridge of Aspiration"
in London that was designed by Wilkinson Eyre and completed in
2003. It connects the Royal Ballet School and the Royal Opera
The desired openings in the
buildings on either side of Floral Street in Covent Garden were
not directly aligned, so the architects devised a pleated, "sleeve-like"
enclosure with 23 square portals that each rotate four degrees
to accommodate the skewed alignment.
Such a structural element evokes
corkscrew fancies of roller coasters and the visionary, cinematic
euphoria of "Blade Runner" or "The Fifth Element."
There are a few other skybridges
in Manhattan. A handsome one can be found on 15th Street in the
Chelsea Market Building between Ninth and Tenth avenues.
Hunter College has three skybridges,
one across 68th Street and two across Lexington Avenue. Those
that cross the avenue unfortunately and unforgivably block vistas
of Citicorp Center, One Beacon Court, and the Chrysler Building
from further north on the avenue.
New York's most impressive
group of skybridges can be found at Columbia Presbyterian Hospital,
where three connect two buildings and another, the highest, connects
both those buildings and a third.
It has been suggested that
skybridges could act as "lifeboats" in emergencies and
include rooftop hatches for helicopter evacuation and airplane-like
escape chutes for lowering people to the ground. These would be
bridges to the future.
Correction from January 18,
Adjacent to the Clock Tower
Building is where 1 Madison Ave., the site for which Daniel Libeskind
is reportedly designing a new skyscraper, is situated. His site
was incorrectly described in an article on page 2 of the Commercial
Real Estate Guide in yesterday's Sun.