Architecture of the sky! You might say we have dreamed of it since the Tower of Babel. Masons persisted with Gothic Cathedrals, but since the industrial revolution, it has been envisioned as impossibly light. Give us filigrees of steelwork, like Eiffel’s or Tatlin’s Towers. Give us razor edge bridges like the ones in Metropolis, or ramps to the sky, such as Chernikhov drew. Don’t ask us exactly where they might lead to: don’t make us say, “God”.
How deflating it is, when we are told pedestrians are terrestrial creatures, who don’t like to move up and down levels, or go out of their way to use spiralling ramps. Architects spend their 20s doodling cathedrals of cables and masts to transport unwilling users to loftier heights, then the rest of their careers drawing boring old buildings, that sit on the ground. Unless they are Bernard Tschumi, and don’t care that their bridges and ramps are doomed to stay empty.
I bring The Good News, that a coming era of bicycle infrastructure building, calls for thousands of ramps linking levels in virtually all of our cities. During The Victorian and Modernists eras, public stairs carved of stone into hillsides were enough. After Nam, when sympathy rose for the disabled, external lifts made an appearance. Now though, as a means to keep bar-ends out of pedestrians’ backs, or to stop cyclists from stopping cars, we see the emergence of new elements in our cities, such as bicycle overpasses, and bicycle ramps linking levels. Construction of the latest such ramp is about to begin in Copenhagen, (Dissing+Weitling Architects, and a nice write-up here). Architects, it’s time to dust off those doodles, and stop being boring old farts, who put everything on the ground plane.