What is an aerial walk?
The idea of walking from one place to another is something we all do during trips to the dentist or the grocery store.
But instead of treading up and down a mall mall, a new building in Shanghai takes your walking path up and down the side of the sky.
The Shanghai Window at the Landmark Tower was designed by architecture firm Zaha Hadid Architects.
The hotel features a “walk” on either side of a pedestrian roadway.
Designers developed a design process that involved research around how pedestrian space in cities works, but the innovative walk is still very new.
Walkers face a ramp that takes them up and around the building.
But to get to the upper floors, walkers had to take a ride on an elevator that skims down the side of the building.
While people are already used to walking on elevators, a walk is a different technique.
Architects at Zaha Hadid Studios tested a skatewalk prototype last year before deciding to build a real walk that wasn’t controlled by technology or computers.
“What’s interesting to us, and what many people might not have noticed, is the back of the building, that’s not related to any technology at all,” said Itzhak Gerzberger, project manager at Zaha Hadid Architects.
“That would be very easy to code into one the program that lets you control movement in an elevator or let you control movement on a footpath or something like that. That’s entirely just an observation,” he said.
“We wanted to create this walk that goes above the stage of any technical solution that would allow us to take control of the movement,” he said.
The window at the Landmark Tower allows clients to see the sky 360 degrees.
The glass exterior of the building is 300 microns thick, about 10 times thinner than a strand of human hair.
It doesn’t seem like much, but researchers at Zaha Hadid Studios say it’s the thinnest sheet of glass ever created.
“The key thing to remember is that it’s not so much the thickness that’s important — it’s really the form, and the design, that allows us to create such an astonishing glass environment,” Gerzberger said.
Like the walk, the glass there also has no electronics to control it.
“Basically all this information is reflected by the reality above, and in creating that experience, this glass is made stronger, because it actually reflects the reality above it,” Gerzberger said.
The architect has built similar concepts for hotels in China.
In 2013, she designed a hotel in Shenzhen with 1,500 steps. The walk spans a distance of 67 stories, higher than some of the hotel rooms.
China has seen a number of buildings that have taken aerial walks, but the Shanghai Window is the tallest.
It also set a Guinness World Record for the tallest skylight, which measures 6 feet tall and 3 feet wide.