New York City’s Futuristic Skybridges between Buildings

A skybridge in Tribeca, New York
A skybridge in Tribeca, New York

Skybridge, also known as skyway and skywalk, is a sort of bridging structure that connects buildings at an altitude for people to access to another building conveniently.

For their unusual and impressive looking, skybridges have always appearing in many films of which the plots are set in the future.

One of the most notable films that feature skybridge is Metropolis, which filmed in 1927, the film shows a futuristic dystopian city that the skyscrapers can be found everywhere.

Skyscrapers and skybridges in the film Metropolis
Skyscrapers and skybridges in the film Metropolis

And after 70 years a version of New York City in near future depicted in the 1997 film The Fifth Element also feature some skybridges connecting high buildings at very high altitudes.

Skybridges depicted in the film The Fifth Element
Skybridges depicted in the film The Fifth Element

Aside from the films the skybridges also appear in many fictional illustrations or conceptual arts. The pictures below is from a book published in 1990s that named King's Views of New York.

Skyscrapers and skybridges depicted in the book King's Views of New York
Skyscrapers and skybridges depicted in the book King's Views of New York

In fact skybridges not only exist in the films and conceptual arts, they have been existing in the reality for a quite long time. And perhaps New York City has more sky bridges than any other city in the world, there are a total of more than ten and close to twenty sky bridges around the city. These bridges are very similar to the ones that seen in those science fiction films and conceptual arts, the only difference is that they are not that high as in the films, most of them are no more than 100 feet off the ground while in the films the sky bridges could be as high as many thousand feet above the ground.

Partially for the reason of the height of these sky bridges in New York, most of them are not in use and have been abondoned there for a long time, why? It's more free if one can just get to the ground in a few seconds to get to the nearby building.

If the sky bridges are situated at higher altitudes, they could still be useful.

Someone say the invention of high speed elevators makes the utility of these bridges less neccessary, in fact this is complete wrong. First, in some cities walking through a street is very time-consuming when traffic is busy. Second, even the elevator is fast, people still need more time to wait for it, especially when too many people are using it, I once went to the Shanghai World Finalcial Center to have a look at its observatory on the uppermost floors, it took us more than ten minutes to wait for an elevator. Additionally the real high speed elevators that travel faster than 6m/s are only for tourism uses or used in hotels not for offices or residences.

Now let's take a look at these gorgeous skybridges in New York City. All these skybridges were built in last century with the exception of the last one.

The West 32nd Street Skybridge

This gorgeous skybridge has 3 stories, like a small building hovering in the air. The skybridge is located in the vicinity of Penn Station that between 6th and 7th Avenues, connecting the old Gimbels Department Store ( the Manhattan Mall in today) and the store's annex at 116 West 32 Street, for this the skybridge is either known as West 32nd St skybridge or the Gimbel's skybridge.

Gimbel Department Store built this skybridge in 1925 in a move to compete with the Macy's Department Store which situated a block away, now the skybridge is no longer in use and empty but still intact. The skybridge features an art deco design, it was designed by Richmond Shreve and William Lamb, the same architects that designed the renowned Empire State Building.

The Gimbel's Skybridge on West 32nd Street
The Gimbel's Skybridge on West 32nd Street

The East 24th Street Skybridge

This skybridge is situated in a good location being across from Madison Square Park.

Additionally it can be seen in the picture below that the bridge is hovering between two buildings with one of them being the iconic MetLife Insurance Company Building, which is a landmark in the district between Midtown and Lower Manhattan with its white clock tower.

The bridge was built at a time when both buildings that connected by the bridge were owned by the Metropolitan Life Insurance Company.

It seems the bridge is still in use as the lights inside the bridge can be seen when the nights come.

The East 24th Street Skybridge
The East 24th Street Skybridge

The West 15th Street Skybridge

This bridge is located in the old Nabisco bakeries where the Oreo cookie was invented, it was built in 1930 to connect two buildings of the Nabisco bakeries on the West 15th Street, and like the one near Penn Station(Gimbels Skybridge) this skybridge is also no longer in use.

The West 15th Street Skybridge
The West 15th Street Skybridge

The Staple Street Skybridge

The skybridge hovering above the Staple Street may be the most gorgeous skybridge in New York City, but also the lowest one, only a few meters off the ground, at such a low height it's no wonder that people are reluctant to use these skybridges while the ground can accessed in a few seconds.

The skybridge was built in 1907 to connect a medical clinic run by New York Hospital at 9 Jay Street to an annex building of them at 67 Hudson Street.

The Staple Street Skybridge
The Staple Street Skybridge

Like what mentioned above, the skybridge could again be used in modern time or future if the location is high enough. The last skybridge listed below is a newly built one, and its location is quite high.

American Copper Buildings skybridge

This year, two buildings named American Copper Buildings got built in the east side of Manhattan, the two residential buildings are connected by a distinctive skybridge. As can be seen in the picture this skybridge is much higher than those old ones. The completion of this complex proves that skybridge is still useful if the height is high enough.

American Copper Buildings skybridge
American Copper Buildings skybridge
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