The Albany Skyway, an underutilized highway offramp turned linear park, connects the capital city’s downtown core with the Hudson 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.
Opened to community fanfare in the spring of 2022, the Albany Skyway serves one of the region's most historically underserved census tracts, reimagining urban infrastructure though the lens of pedestrian wellbeing and making significant steps in righting the wrongs of past urban development. Throughout the six-plus years of planning and construction led by engineering services firm Stantec, the project required many unique design considerations – especially with regard to the park’s lighting program.
"From a lighting standpoint, this project required many non-standard solutions,” describes Landscape Forms Senior Lighting Sales Specialist, Chad Gleesing. "To fit Albany Skyway’s needs, we outfitted our Rama area lights with security camera mounts, electrical outlets, additional controls, and on top of that, some of the poles were mounted on a parapet wall, so the conduit and mounting method for those was very unique.”
Unable to run conduit up through the parapet wall, Gleesing and 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. “Not only did we have to make it work logistically, we had to make it look good and aesthetically pleasing without any exposed conduit,” says Gleesing.
While the bridge-like form of the parapet-lined park presented specific design challenges, 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. Welcoming visitors to the Skyway is a custom shade structure designed like an abstracted ship’s hull—a nod to the city’s connection to the Hudson River and its deep maritime heritage.
“The idea was to interpret something very much a part of Albany’s history, and give people the opportunity to hearken back and reconnect with these stories of their community’s founding.”
– Travis Ewen, Stantec
In some areas of the park, lighting plays an additional role in transforming and repurposing previous municipal infrastructure as an intriguing and artful experience. "A cool aspect of this project is the highway underpass area and the way we were able to make it a really dynamic place at night,” says Travis Ewen. "We programmed the lighting to correspond with the ebb and flow of the tides in the Hudson to transform what would be an underutilized under-bridge area into a really striking experience that reaffirms the project’s theme.”