Glass bottom floor Glacier Skywalk gives new views of Columbia Icefield
Hovering above the Columbia Icefield in the Canadian Rockies, the recently opened ‘Glacier Skywalk’ offers visitors a breathtaking experience (Photo: Brewster Travel Canada)
Back in 2011, the original designs for the Glacier Skywalk received attention after winning the Future Projects Category Award at the World Architecture Festival. Three years on the project is finally complete and the cliff-edge walkway and awe-inspiring observation deck are now open to the public, providing spectacular views of the Columbia Icefield in the Canadian Rockies.
The Glacier Skywalk incorporates a meeting area, free viewing area, cliff-edge walkway and observation deck. The award winning design features an impressive curved glass-floored walkway, which is suspended 280 m (918 ft) above the Sunwapta Valley. The ambitious project was completed by the design build team PCL Construction Management, engineering firm Read Jones Christofferson and Sturgess Architecture for Brewster Travel Canada.
“In developing our design, we carefully considered what would maximize the impact of the site for visitors while respecting the environment,” says engineering firm, Read Jones Christofferson. “We wanted to push the limits of the sense of exposure offered and quickly decided that the best way to approach this would be to construct a glass floored walk area. We want people to feel as if they are suspended in the air over the Sunwapta Valley floor.”
Similar to the Grand Canyon Skywalk, the engineering firm decided to curve the glass walkway in an effort to offer additional views and a thrilling experience seemingly beyond the structural supports. The design features an intricate cable suspension system that reduces the appearance of the supports and thus gives users the sense of danger as they walk above the dramatic landscape.
“When contemplating material choices and construction methods, we took into consideration the local site restrictions, the importance of blending the structure into the natural surroundings, long term durability and ongoing maintenance requirements, budgetary considerations, as well as the expressed desire for a rapid construction time,” says Read Jones Christofferson. “Weathering steel was selected because the bulk of the structure can be substantially fabricated off-site; it is very durable, has limited maintenance requirements and will naturally blend in with the surrounding geology.”
The total cost to complete the Glacier Skywalk, including consultation, environmental monitoring and assessment, planning, design and construction, was approximately CA$21 million (approx. US19 million).
Apart from the Glacier Skywalk, visitors to the Jasper National Park can also jump on board a huge Ice Explorer and go out onto the surface of an ancient glacier, They can also take in the Northern Lights, which are best viewed in the winter months, with stargazers benefiting from the fact that the Park is the second largest dark sky reserve in the world.
The Glacier Skywalk is open daily from May to October, with tickets prices set at CA$24.50 for an adult and CA$12.50 for a child (under 16).