The Skybridge Question

Re-imagined skybridge (Credit: Mya Hawreliak)

Between every passing period, a swarm of students can be seen flooding through the school building. The number of these students increases every year as each incoming class is typically larger than the one before it. An important element that assists in this transportation of students from class to class is the skybridge: a suspended platform that connects two upper level halls, along with stairs down to the main area. While this certainly helps regulate the nonstop traffic flow during passing periods as is, many wonder if possible alterations to the design would have made the crowds more manageable.

The new Pullman High School building was completed in May of 2017, having been started in October of 2014. The redesign focused on functionality and safety of the building, as discussed in a previous article, “Pullman High School: Then to Now.” Impressive components were added, such as the theater, commons area, and notably, the skybridge. The bridge is certainly one of the many impressive feats of the new building.

However, some have noticed that, between the end of the skybridge and the upper-back level of the school with the math and science wing, there seems to almost be a gap. It looks as if the bridge could continue all the way over the commons area, fitting in perfectly. While this may not come as a surprise to many, the idea of a completed skybridge was actually included in the original plans for the renovation.

Several factors went into the change; in the end it was determined that it would be more beneficial to reduce the length of the bridge. One reason had to do with the architecture of the school: the commons area is defined by large floor to ceiling windows, letting in large amounts of natural light. A longer skybridge might have diminished the openness of the space. Keith Comes from NAC Architecture stated the shorter bridge made an “increased volume of space in the commons below, actually [making] the commons better, too.” The effects of this decision can be seen today; the front half of the commons area with the skybridge feels more tight and cramped than the back half, which has a much more open feel.

Additionally, the complete bridge was cut from the final product to help maintain the budget. When the building plans were analyzed to maximize efficiency and cost, the skybridge, along with several other components, was redesigned. The shrinking of the bridge saved money that would keep the project in budget. “Removing the bridge saved 175,000 dollars,” remarked Joseph Thornton, Director of Operations at Pullman School District. The simple shrinking of the bridge saved money that could keep the school building within the budget.

Despite the benefits of shortening the skybridge, many students feel that a longer bridge would have been more helpful. An issue many mention is the congestion between passing periods on the stairs ascending towards the back of the school. “It would have been a lot more convenient to have a full bridge,” said one student. “Going between two stairs causes lots of congestion.” Another stated, “when I walk to my first period class in the U300s wing, there’s always a mass of students on the stairs.”

Whether saving money by cutting the skybridge was worth the congestion is up for debate. The school building is completed, however, and the skybridge is not likely to be revised. Even a shorter version of the original skybridge amongst the other impressive adaptations of the new construction is a large step up from the outdated school design from a few years ago–a change most all of today’s PHS students are grateful for.

Milena Johnson