Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat
Skybridges: Bringing the Horizontal into the Vertical Realm
Project Start: October, 2018
Anticipated Project Completion: April 2020
Funding Sponsor: thyssenkrupp

Principal Investigators:
Antony Wood, CTBUH; Dario Trabucco, CTBUH; Peng Du, CTBUH

CTBUH has received funding from thyssenkrupp to undertake an important 18-month research project, “Skybridges: Bringing the Horizontal into the Vertical Realm.” This research will begin with a historic evaluation of the skybridge typology, before proceeding with an assessment of the current state of the art in skybridge design and operation. This research will ultimately inform a set of design guidelines for the tall building industry and an evaluation of future potential for skybridges. Following confirmation of the research results, this information will be distilled and widely disseminated in the form of a CTBUH Technical Guide.

Funding Sponsor

Project Milestones
2018, October: Steering Committee First Meeting
2018, October: Research Project Launches

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, have 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. But cultural, organizational, and jurisdictional obstacles remain. To overcome these, a solid case needs to be made for the extensive benefits of skybridges in a much wider application than has been seen historically.

Tencent Seafront Towers, Shenzhen, which employ three multi-story skybridges housing amenities and commons spaces for the towers' office functions.

The purpose of this project is to succinctly capture the development history of the skybridge, as well as put forward a set of principles for future development. The CTBUH believes it is likely we will see more skybridges, and more horizontal development at height between tall buildings, but there is no guarantee that these will be of high quality unless we begin to seriously analyze how well the existing spaces function, and learn from them. This research therefore marks an important milestone in the development of an urban space that has persisted through utopian visions and emerged as a practical, point solution in isolated cases, but now is emerging as a major design typology. This research seeks to provide a framework for better understanding the skybridge, and improving upon it.

Research objectives include:

Definition and historical evaluation of the typology. To be considered a “skybridge” the project will generally be a primarily-enclosed space linking two (or more) buildings at height, but there may be exceptions made for those projects acknowledged as being influential in the development of the typology overall, or which show potential for the typology to develop in the future. Historically, what have been the main drivers for the proposition of skybridges in both the built and unbuilt realm?

Assessment of the current state of the art. Through an examination of built, under-design and under-construction skybridges around the world, the research project will seek common characteristics and identify best practices in design, construction, and operation of skybridges in a tall-building setting.

Development of design guidelines / future potential. Based on the assessment of the challenges and existing solutions articulated in the previous section, the research aims to develop a preliminary set of guidelines for future developers of skybridges, taking into account technological changes such as horizontal elevators, and urban changes that embrace skybridges more fully as part of the cityscape.

  • What are the main challenges / barriers to the incorporation of skybridges in tall buildings – physically, logistically and operationally – and how can these challenges be overcome?
  • What are sensible design considerations / recommendations, as first steps towards the incorporation of skybridges in tall building design?
  • What benefits could skybridges bring to our current and future urban centers?
Contact Information
For more information or any questions, please contact research@ctbuh.org