Detroit Skybridge - Phillip K. Smith III


Detroit Skybridge by Phillip K. Smith III connects two of Detroit’s most iconic buildings, One Woodward and the Guardian Building, the 100 foot long 16th floor skybridge becomes a floating bar of light hovering over the streets of Downtown Detroit. Inspired by the modular white concrete of Yamasaki’s 1962 skyscraper and the mosaic of color within the 1929 Guardian Building, Smith has created a unique color program for this significantly scaled project. Composed of shifting gradients and moving planes of light, this precisely paced installation will merge art with architecture at the scale of the city. The project was conceptualized and produced by Library Street Collective. Detroit Skybridge is supported by Bedrock Detroit, Quicken Loans Community Fund and Wayne County.

The pedestrian bridge was constructed in 1976 by architect Gino Rossetti to allow access for Michigan Consolidated Gas (Michcon) and the American Natural Resources Co. (ANR) to move freely, as employees from each company were spread across both the Guardian and the Yamasaki buildings until the late 1990s. It was at this time that ANR relocated, prompting decreased usage of the walkway and its resulting closure. Multiple proposals to repurpose the space have emerged since, yet none have materialized until now. As an incomparable site-specific light installation, tenants of both structures and passersby alike will be given the chance to enjoy the beauty of its unique architecture, made extraordinary by the placid movement of choreographed light. Library Street Collective owner Anthony Curis is thrilled to share the project with the city: “Detroit Skybridge is another example of how underutilized spaces can be reimagined for the benefit of the public. Phillip’s use of light and color, along with his understanding of architecture and scale, make this a compelling project for the city.”

He sites the elemental root of his work as change -- such as shifting color variations, the movement from translucence to opacity -- which implies a sense of life, or breath, and is offered in abundance as the driving force behind Detroit Skybridge. Smith is drawn to sites where he can engage directly with the existing beauty of the surroundings, whether that is on the edge of the ocean, the middle of the desert, or in the midst of urbanity. He seeks to create experiences that are highly memorable, seemingly ephemeral, and directly conditioned by the specifics of the site.

“This project presents an entirely unique art experience outside of the traditional bounds of the museum or gallery, positioning itself within the public realm for all to experience freely. By day, the Skybridge will continue to be seen as its historical self within the architecture and massing of Downtown. But by night, it will become a beacon for the beauty, creativity, and innovation of Detroit,” says Smith. “I am interested in creating experiences that tap into ‘universal beauty’ -- experiences that make us step away from our pattern, our life, our work, our errands, and allow us to see sublime beauty shifting and changing before our eyes.”