China is nearing completion of a new architectural landmark. The building is actually four distinct skyscrapers rising above the city of Chongqing. But what makes the project truly impressive is a 1,000 foot steel and glass sky bridge that connects them all, filled with trees, lagoons, observation decks, shops, and restaurants. Its developers call it “The Crystal.”
Construction on the bridge was completed this week, when massive cranes lifted the last steel piece and secured it in place some 850 feet in the air. Before we get into the details, take a moment to check out the scale of the structure compared to a person:
Designed by Israeli-Canadian architect Moshe Safdie, the structure echoes the architect’s famous $5.7 billion “SkyPark” at the Marina Bay Sands in Singapore, which was completed in 2010 and takes a similar approach to connecting independent skyscrapers with a bridge of entertainment and recreation spaces.
However, the Crystal is fully covered by a glass vault that, according to the developers, was inspired by old sailing ships. It’s an apt reference, since the project is situated at the confluence of the Yangtze and Jialing rivers in central China.
Though it’s situated 850 feet above the street, the Crystal isn’t the tallest skybridge in the world. That honor goes to the Kingdom Centre in Saudi Arabia, whose 300-ton bridge floats 992 feet above ground. Still, Safdie’s Crystal is in some ways more impressive than other well known sky bridges–both because it links more towers than any other and because its construction makes it more akin to a distinct skyscraper than a simple connecting bridge.
In other words, the Crystal is the complex’s fifth skyscraper, albeit a horizontal one. To get an idea of just how complicated the process of building it was, you can watch the prefab steel segments being hoisted into place below.
“The great opportunities with these building types are the unexpected new vantage points found to view the city, and the further integration of the public realm into the high levels of a building,” Safdie’s firm writes on its website. The Crystal acts “not only as a connector, but as a fully programmed horizontal structure complete with internal streets, building program and gardens.”
Similarly to Safdie’s SkyPark, the Crystal is part of a larger development called Raffles City Chongqing, a 12-million-square-foot complex composed of eight skyscrapers that will contain a 2.5-million-square-foot mall, 1.6 million square feet of office space, and 1,400 residential apartments. The building is expected to be complete and operative in the second half of 2019.