The Albany Skyway, an underutilized highway offramp turned linear park, connects the city’s downtown core with the Hudson River and offers pedestrians a new view of the historic riverfront landscape. Lauded as a “game-changer for the city” by New York Governor Kathy Hochul, the ADA-compliant park is one of the more innovative examples in the movement to enhance equitable access to urban green space.
Years in the making, the Albany Skyway vision began with a highway offramp that wasn’t experiencing its expected rate of traffic. Gary Sorge, Discipline Leader of Landscape Architecture at Stantec, identified this underutilized exit ramp as the perfect opportunity to restore connections between people and nature, create new options for recreation, and support overall community health and wellbeing.
Opened to local fanfare in the spring of 2022, the Albany Skyway serves one of the region’s most historically underserved census tracts, making a significant step in righting the wrongs of past urban development. Now a hub of activity for walkers and cyclists, the project is as a shining example of how ageing urban infrastructure can be reimagined to suit the needs of people—not cars—first and foremost.
“Our vision emerged from working closely with the city and the New York State Department of Transportation. To lead the feasibility study, complete final design, and see our vision come to life is a thrill. The benefits to the community are paramount and are clear to see,” says Sorge.
Throughout the Skyway, Landscape Forms lighting plays a central role in activating this new pedestrian destination. Lining the linear space, Rama area lights thrive in their combination of minimalist style and modern performance. Interestingly, with the unique structural nature of the Albany Skyway, significant modifications needed to be done to Rama to ensure the luminaires beautifully and effectively served the space. Unable to run conduit up through the parapet wall, the Landscape Forms lighting special engineering group custom designed a specific mounting system that straddled either side of the wall and ran conduit through an enclosed side channel rather than straight up from below. The result is a level of fit and finish that matches the standard solution, but with innovative modifications tailored specially to suit this site.
Rama’s wide range of outputs and distributions further adapt to the Albany Skyway’s unique layout, while their refined aesthetic offers a nice design counterpoint to the other Landscape Forms elements found throughout the site. Trellis structures at the Skyway’s entrance represent an abstracted vision of a ship’s hull—specifically the hull of the Halve Maen, a Dutch East India Company mercantile vessel captained by famed navigator, sea explorer, and river namesake Henry Hudson.
In some areas of the park, lighting plays an additional role in transforming and repurposing previous municipal infrastructure as an intriguing and artful experience. On the underpass area, the luminaires are programmed to correspond with the ebb and flow of the tides in the Hudson River, transforming what would be an underutilized under-bridge area into a striking design experience that reaffirms the project’s theme.
While the bridge-like form of the parapet-lined park presented some design challenges and required some custom solutions, it was also instrumental in achieving one of the Albany Skyway project’s central aims—restoring community connections. Quite literally, the elevated route reunites two portions of the community which were previously divided by the highway, but the connections restored go even deeper, using thoughtful design to bring people together around the appreciation of local landscape and the celebration of local history.
Published on November 2, 2023