Skywalk, Gibraltar, United Kingdom
Architects: Arc Designs
Walking on air...
Jonas Stahl, Architect at Arc Designs, talks through the challenges of designing and constructing a state-of-the-art glass walkway on top of The Rock of Gibraltar
When it comes to architectural challenges, they don’t come much tougher than building a glass walkway on top of The Rock of Gibraltar. Limited access, plunging cliffs, changing weather systems and tailless Barbary Macaques were just some of the difficulties encountered when designing and constructing Skywalk.
Skywalk is a state-of-the-art glass platform and walkway built above an historic military platform once serving as a base for anti-aircraft Bofors guns. It offers breath-taking, 360-degree panoramic views across Europe and Africa, the Mediterranean Sea and Atlantic Ocean, as well as the plunging cliffs below.
The design brief was simple; afford the visitor with new and unrivalled views in all directions including the rocky cliff face. At the same time, we had to ensure a subtle intervention that did not detract from the natural and historic nature of what is a very unique setting.
To deliver on this brief, the architects teamed up with architectural studios Mayice, who helped come up with the original concept designs. Together, they designed a cantilevered walkway with glazed flooring and balustrade that wrapped around the historic stone platform.
Steel stairs gave access to the military platform below where the old octagonal concrete gun base would serve as a seat for visitors to rest and gaze out towards the distant horizon.
The construction challenges faced with Skywalk were many. Access was limited to the very narrow roads that zig-zag their way up the Rock. This meant the structure of the walkway had to be designed as numerous smaller sections that could be transported up to the site and assembled in-situ.
The sharply dropping cliffs below were made more fearsome by the considerable wind forces and rapidly changing weather conditions, which had to be closely monitored.Then, of course, you had the army of native tailless Barbary Macaques which frequently visited the site and inquisitively rummaged through any novel item brought into their territory.
These challenges were overcome by careful planning, showing respect to mother nature, and learning to charm the troops of monkeys that call the Rock their home.
The result is a modern attraction that showcases the Rock in all of its glory, and without
negatively impacting its natural beauty. Skywalk culminates a wider project of improvements carried out in the Upper Rock Nature Reserve by the Government of Gibraltar, aiming to improve the site for locals and tourists.