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Building Bridges

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Bridges between buildings are a useful way of going over something to get people or things to a different building more quickly or conveniently. They’re like long corridors that make two or more buildings into one. This is most useful for certain types of factory.

The Gosprom building opened in Kharkiv in the Ukraine in 1928 after a local architect, Viktor Trotsenko, won a public competition in 1925. The buildings housed the Ukrainian Soviet Republic’s central committee, various commissariats, planning commissions and industrial enterprises, a library and a hotel.


Bridges between buildings are a convenient way to link different buildings in places where going outside means overcoats and different shoes.

1920s Russian architecture used them as a way for residents to get to shared facilities such as canteens, childminding, gymnasiums and other recreational spaces.

The two examples above are examples of Constructivist architecture employing the concept of a social condenser in which shared spaces were designed without a sense of hierarchy. This made them more socially accessible.


In Dubai, less inclusively, you’ll see many bridges linking apartment buildings and hotels with separate buildings that contain car parking and, more often than not, shared facilities such as cafés, childminding centres, swimming pools and gyms on their rooftops. It saves going outside.


The users of this science and technology centre in central Siberia’s Novosibirsk can probably relate to that.


One bridged building that’s entered our consciousness lately is Steven Holl’s Linked Hybrid in Beijing. It may be to avoid contact with the outside air.


SH’s website is unlikely to tell us.


There’s that term, “social condenser” again. We can’t say if it’s being used disingenuously or naïvely but, when amenities in contemporary mixed use complexes are involved, there’s certain to be a hierarchy of residents, residents’  guests, guest, and public membership privileges.

In Linked Hybrid, bridges connect the residential buildings with communal facilities such as the gym and swimming pool, and also enable residents and their guests to access the hotel facilities. This phenomena has been covered in Fun!tionalism and The Well-Serviced Apartment.  Holl’s site has some nice pictures but no plans or sections so it’s difficult to evaluate the actual convenience and amenity offered. A website quote by Paul Goldberger offers a different angle.


Not so sure about that. One person’s “sense of isolation” is another person’s “comfortable distance”. But hey, would that be the same Paul Goldberger seen (in Charles Jenck’s The Language of Post Modern Architecture, 1984 edition, p23) deriding buildings with “streets in the sky”.

paul goldberger

We need more information about his change of heart. Is it the maturity of being 30 years older? or is it a case of “The Smithsons bad, Holl good”? Or “1970’s London bad, 2009 Beijing good”? Maybe it’s “poor people bad, rich people good”? Or “Social housing bad, Capitalist exploitation good”? We may never know.

One thing we do know about bridges between buildings is that they’re a good idea. And one thing we know about architects is that they tend to take good ideas and represent them – something akin to a kiss of death.

With Linked Hybrid, it’s all about the getting there rather than what you do once you have. In this sense, the bridge is the communal facilities rather than a means of accessing them.

Ditto Linked Hybrid, Beijing (Steven Holl)

This is more so with SHoP’s 626 First Ave. The bridge is now the architectural focus of the building.  It enables sharing of communal facilities but its primary architectural function is to represent it.

SHoP Architects’ 626 First Avenue apartments

These next examples have the bridge at the top of the building. The Address Sky View Towers is one of those twin hotel and apartment buildings mentioned in The Well Serviced Apartment.


Marina Bay Sands is all-hotel with the value-added amenities similarly up top where they don’t encroach upon the business bits of the building.

Marina Bay Sands, Singapore (Rafael Viñoly Architects)
Marina Bay Sands, Singapore (Rafael Viñoly Architects)

Once it’s established that a bridge can be value-added space, it can then be marketed as premium space. Designed by Arquitectonica, Gate Towers in Abu Dhabi takes the bridge full-circle with premium double-storey “sky penthouses”.


Rising over 250 metres in the air and occupying the 64th & 65th Floor, the stunning Penthouse Collection at Gate Towers is the world’s highest penthouse bridge structure on a residential space

I think that should be “the world’s highest residential penthouses on a bridge structure.”

The Collection is home to 21 luxurious penthouses comprising at least 430 square metres each and with their own private swimming pools and, in a limited number of units, an ‘internal garden’.

The quotation marks are there for a (legal) reason.

And there we have it. Bridges have gone

  1. from being something that connects shared amenities,
  2. to being something that represents shared amenities,
  3. to being something that is a value-adding shared amenity, and finally
  4. to being something that contains value-adding unshared amenities (in the form of swimming pools) and
  5. to something that provides value-adding shared but unusable amenity (in the form of ‘internal gardens’).

What’s happened is that bridges between buildings have become a new form of property. This is indeed the first time enclosed space unsupported from below has been marketed as penthouse space (or should we say ‘penthouse’ space?) Cheekily, the value-adding feature is a view up and down a lightwell.

This makes sense. To give those lightwells a base would make them into conventional courtyards on a conventional bridge. There would be no views down but, more importantly, no views up. Representing a communal space (even if it’s a void) has higher architectural priority than providing useable space. This principle gave us buildings like MVRDV’s 2005 Mirador. Its media package disingenuously invoked LC’s 1949 Ud’H but by 2005, representing a thing had already become more important than the thing being represented. It made no sense to put communal space on a rooftop where no-one could see it.


Arquitectonica have their place in void history. Currently reprised in the Abu Dhabi development,

their 1982 Atlantis was groundbreaking in giving architectural representation to void space as communal space.

The Atlantis Condominium, Miami, Florida, 8007

The residents at least got a hot tub and a palm tree out of it.




  • says:

    excelent article.
    also “outside” buildings, bridges can also do more than simply join 2 ends.
    being buildings themselves.
    italians seem to have a way with this.
    in portuguese it’s called “killing 2 rabbits with only 1 stone” – mening a very good way to transform a single effort in more than one advantage.
    i think it’s what vitruvius called “utilitas”…

    • And thanks again Malcolm,

      I’ll explain fully here so everyone can see. As I understand the problem, it goes back about a year. Over that time, WordPress has been trying to maintain its existing legacy software while at the same time encouraging its users to shift to a “new improved posting experience” having a new interface that also happens to be scaleable across smartphones and tablets and such. The result is that there are now two interfaces, neither of which are perfect. One of the imperfections with the former interface is that the date a draft was first created occasionally gets set as the date of a scheduled post. This means that, upon posting, that post is not posted as the most recent. I have raised this issue with their “Happiness Engineers”, questioning the reason for this dubious functionality but this random glitch persists. My only workaround is to use the new and less functional editor that at least allows a scheduled post to be unscheduled. Occasionally, I forget.