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Touring the Massive Skybridge Connecting SHoP's American Copper Buildings

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The 100-foot-long bridge connects two residential towers, and is the city's first skybridge in 80 years

The under construction American Copper Buildings with the three-story skybridge framed in the center.
All photos by Will Femia for Curbed

Skybridges today are relics of New York City's past—a formidable symbol of what architects imagined the city's future could look like. But those that remain are not only few and far between, but also often in a state of disrepair. Despite that, one architecture firm has been working to bring them back into the spotlight, and that's nowhere more evident than at the two towers rising along the East River at 626 First Avenue, now known as the American Copper Buildings.

The SHoP-designed buildings are connected by a three-story skybridge that occupies floors 27-29 and is suspended 300 feet above ground. But unlike previous skybridges in the city that were mostly seen as picturesque conveyers between two towers, the American Copper Buildings' skybridge is a destination in itself, one that's home to the building's plethora of amenities.

By Will Femia for Curbed

Take, for instance, the 75-foot lap pool; if the renderings are anything to go by, swimming there will make visitors feel like they're floating high above Manhattan, with dramatic views of the East River on one side and the skyline on the other.

SHoP Architects.

JDS Development Group and SHoP Architects provided several publications, including Curbed, with a tour of the construction site last week. A walk around it reveals several colorful, painted signs on the floor at different points of the skybridge, denoting where each of its amenities will go, like the climbing wall in the double height fitness center. With its floor-to-ceiling windows, the climbing wall, and the fitness center look right on to the Empire State Building beyond. "I would definitely be inspired to work out here," Greg Pasquarelli, one of the principals at SHoP Architects, said on the tour.

The Empire State Building as seen from the skybridge's fitness center.
By Will Femia for Curbed

But it's not just the amenities that stand out here. The structure also carries the utility systems for the two buildings and unifies them. It's also a feat of modern engineering: the structure itself is made out of steel trusses that weigh up to 421,000 pounds.

Constructing the two towers that make up this 900,000-square-foot development has been no less of a laborious process by any means. The East River had to be rerouted to build the foundation of the structure, 60,000 tons of soil were removed, and 50,000 tons of concrete were poured, delivered by over 5,000 trucks.

The windows pictured here are among 4,592 windows installed across the building. The towers also feature over 5,000 copper panels.
By Will Femia for Curbed

But that level of attention to detail on part of the developer as well as the architecture firm is what the made the project all the more appealing to them. "We care about design and sustainability, and we want to build buildings that people love and take care of," Pasquarelli said.

"We are excited to bring this level of craftsmanship to the rental market," Michael Stern, the CEO of JDS Development Group said. "We are demonstrating what we excel at." Once complete, the skybridge will be one of the first such bridges to have been built in the city in 80 years, according to the developers. So far prices for the 761-unit rental buildings have remained under wraps, but there's a teaser website as consolation.