Skydance Bridge


Project Type:  Civic

Client: City of Oklahoma City

AIA Central Oklahoma Urban Design Citation Award

Americans for the Arts Top 50 Public Art Project


In collaboration with S-X-L

In his letter dated June 3, 2008, the Honorable Mayor Cornett described Project No. BC-0180 as a competition to design a 400 foot-long pedestrian bridge of iconic status to serveas a symbol of Oklahoma City. The $6.8M design will literally and figuratively bridge the north and south portions of the new city park as described in the Core to Shore Master Plan, and connect the past with the future of Oklahoma City to travelers of I-40 (formerly Route 66). 

Much of this capitol city and state’s history is defined by the sweeping Oklahoma wind. From images of the tall grass prairie to the achievements of Wiley Post, Braniff Airlines and Tinker AirForce Base, sculpted blades have risen up to slice the wind. The flight of the Scissor tailed Flycatcher, Oklahoma’s State Bird, perhaps best evokes the shaping forces of our wind. This “skydance”of spring is a V-shaped flight drawn against the sky, marking its signature mating dance.The bird’s distinctive tail feathers demonstrate an evolved necessity to navigate swirling prairie winds. Its lightweight frame is held strong by hollowed bones. From these, the Skydvance Bridge takes foothold and projects its iconic form onto the Oklahoma City skyline.

From October 2008 until June 2011, the design of the bridge evolved, continually adapting to a series of changes to governing structural load criteria, dramatic changes to funding sources, a complex client consisting of local, state and federal government agencies, and an accelerated construction schedule. Rhino 3d computer modeling software techniques, bolstered by Grasshopper algorithmic manipulations, facilitated unprecedented local collaborations between clients, architects, engineers, and steel fabricators, assuring the superstructure of the Oklahoma City Skydance Bridge could be fabricated within a six month construction window and ascend prior to the opening of the new Interstate 40 in December 2011.

The designers were equally as concerned with crafting a comfortable urban walkway as they were with forging an iconic regional landmark. The thick wooden deck of the bridge deadens the roar of the interstate bellow and forms a pedestrian-scaled bird’s nest dotted with benches, all granting comfort and safety to travelers. Vertical notches in the wood railing provide small children with protected lookouts from which to watch cars.

The steel hybrid structure, consisting of a vertically cantilevered tri-cord truss (wings) and simple span truss bridge, reflects dual urban and loading-diagram conditions. The two wings learn from the efficient bone structure of a bird, stressing the skin around a hollow core. The structural approach ensured that local steel fabricators could competitively bid the project, keeping jobs within three miles of the site and reducing transportation costs. Durable construction materials with  high-recycled materials content are essential to ensure a strong measure of sustainability and efficiency of the bridge. High performance LED lighting empowers the civic stature of the pedestrian bridge at night.

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Skydance Bridge photo by Timothy Hursley 001.jpg

Photographs by Tim Hursley

*Completed as Butzer Gardner Architects