Stainless sidewalk in the sky

A new pedestrian bridge, which links Millennium Park and the Art Institute of Chicago’s Modern Wing, has been built using, in part, stainless steel. The Nichols Bridgeway, as this sloping, 620ft long span is called, is designed by Italy’s Renzo Piano. The span endows Millennium Park with its second pedestrian bridge by a winner of the Pritzker Architecture Prize. The first, Frank Gehry’s 960ft long BP Bridge, is a snaking piece of sculpture, sheathed in stainless steel shingles that curves across intimidating Columbus Drive. In contrast, Piano’s bridge is a straight shot, consisting of curving steel sections that are welded together to resemble the hull of a racing yacht. Sealing the nautical metaphor, Piano, who is an avid sailor, gave the bridge delicate, prow-shaped ends. The deck, 8 to 12ft wide, is big enough to allow people to cluster while others pass by. The wood handrail is an extra-wide 10in, giving it the feel of a substantial barrier. Through some optical trick, the stainless steel mesh guardrail is transparent when you see it from the ground and more opaque when you see it from within the bridge. The bridge is set to open Saturday, 16 May 2009.
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