This colorful Skybridge transforms Detroit’s skyline – Phillip K. Smith

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Phillip K. Smith III - Detroit Skybridge, 2018, acrylic, aluminum, LED lighting, electronic components, unique color program, 30,48 x 3,66 x 3,35 m (100 x 12 x 11 ft.), Detroit, Michigan

Phillip K. Smith III – Detroit Skybridge, 2018, acrylic, aluminum, LED lighting, electronic components, unique color program, 30,48 x 3,66 x 3,35 m (100 x 12 x 11 ft.), Detroit, Michigan

Published: September 12, 2019

Last updated:

Introduction

In Larned, Detroit, a towering bridge connects two skyscrapers. It’s a bridge that strikes from afar with its extraordinary grace. It combines the vintage-styled Guarding building and the iconic One Woodward. Soaring in the 16th floors of the buildings, it illuminates the street with its dancing and moving colors.

What is Detroit’s Skybridge?

The Skybridge is a rare project providing a pristine experience for everyone. Unlike other artworks locked in museums and galleries, this one is in the open within the public vicinity.

Phillip K. Smith III - Detroit Skybridge, 2018, acrylic, aluminum, LED lighting, electronic components, unique color program, 30,48 x 3,66 x 3,35 m (100 x 12 x 11 ft.), Detroit, Michigan

Phillip K. Smith III – Detroit Skybridge, 2018, acrylic, aluminum, LED lighting, electronic components, unique color program, 30,48 x 3,66 x 3,35 m (100 x 12 x 11 ft.), Detroit, Michigan

Phillip K. Smith III - Detroit Skybridge, 2018, acrylic, aluminum, LED lighting, electronic components, unique color program, 30,48 x 3,66 x 3,35 m (100 x 12 x 11 ft.), Detroit, Michigan

Phillip K. Smith III – Detroit Skybridge, 2018, acrylic, aluminum, LED lighting, electronic components, unique color program, 30,48 x 3,66 x 3,35 m (100 x 12 x 11 ft.), Detroit, Michigan

Who created it when?

Back in 1976, architect Gino Rossetti envisaged the bridge as a functional pathway between American Natural Resources Co and the Michigan Consolidated Gas company. With employees of the two companies stationed in both buildings, they had to come up with a solution.

The light installation

Later, the pathway’s usage declined, and the ANR’s moved, leading to calls of repurposing it. Only Philip K. Smith III had a better idea: creating a colored light installation along the bridge. Inspired by the design of the two buildings, Smith brewed ideas from One Woodward concrete art and color styles from the Guarding Building.

Phillip K. Smith III - Detroit Skybridge, 2018, acrylic, aluminum, LED lighting, electronic components, unique color program, 30,48 x 3,66 x 3,35 m (100 x 12 x 11 ft.), Detroit, Michigan

Phillip K. Smith III – Detroit Skybridge, 2018, acrylic, aluminum, LED lighting, electronic components, unique color program, 30,48 x 3,66 x 3,35 m (100 x 12 x 11 ft.), Detroit, Michigan

Phillip K. Smith III - Detroit Skybridge, 2018, acrylic, aluminum, LED lighting, electronic components, unique color program, 30,48 x 3,66 x 3,35 m (100 x 12 x 11 ft.), Detroit, Michigan

Phillip K. Smith III – Detroit Skybridge, 2018, acrylic, aluminum, LED lighting, electronic components, unique color program, 30,48 x 3,66 x 3,35 m (100 x 12 x 11 ft.), Detroit, Michigan

Connecting two iconic buildings

The architecture of the two buildings ooze with style; thus, Philip had a lot to borrow. The Guarding is a classy building, designed by the Minoru Yamasaki, an American architect. Everyone in the construction and architecture scene knew Minoru as the famous artist behind the World Trade Center concept. Meanwhile, Wirt Rowland designed the Guardian building after his long stint in Detroit as an architect.

Phillip K. Smith III - Detroit Skybridge, 2018, acrylic, aluminum, LED lighting, electronic components, unique color program, 30,48 x 3,66 x 3,35 m (100 x 12 x 11 ft.), Detroit, Michigan

Phillip K. Smith III – Detroit Skybridge, 2018, acrylic, aluminum, LED lighting, electronic components, unique color program, 30,48 x 3,66 x 3,35 m (100 x 12 x 11 ft.), Detroit, Michigan

Phillip K. Smith III - Detroit Skybridge, 2018, acrylic, aluminum, LED lighting, electronic components, unique color program, 30,48 x 3,66 x 3,35 m (100 x 12 x 11 ft.), Detroit, Michigan

Phillip K. Smith III – Detroit Skybridge, 2018, acrylic, aluminum, LED lighting, electronic components, unique color program, 30,48 x 3,66 x 3,35 m (100 x 12 x 11 ft.), Detroit, Michigan

Video: The artist speaks about the Skybridge
2 min 47 sec
Phillip K. Smith III’s role

The primary role of Smith involved integrating LED lights in the panels to allow for parsing of light in blocks of colors. Smith programmed the lights to tweak the spectacle. He achieved dynamic light patterns which created a movement illusion. Besides the traversing colors, he added bars of stagnant colors and rainbow effects.

Who financed it?

Smith denoted the project as a model of beauty and creativity. Quicken Loans Community Fund, The library street Collective gallery, Bedrock Detroit and Wayne County, facilitated the successful completion of the awe-inspiring model.

Effects of the light installation

The Detroit Skybridge inspired the Library street collective owner who termed it as an epitome expressing the underutilization of the city’s space. According to him, it’s possible to re-imagine underutilized space across the city using the Skybridge model.

Phillip K. Smith III - Detroit Skybridge, 2018, acrylic, aluminum, LED lighting, electronic components, unique color program, 30,48 x 3,66 x 3,35 m (100 x 12 x 11 ft.), Detroit, Michigan

Phillip K. Smith III – Detroit Skybridge, 2018, acrylic, aluminum, LED lighting, electronic components, unique color program, 30,48 x 3,66 x 3,35 m (100 x 12 x 11 ft.), Detroit, Michigan

Phillip K. Smith III - Detroit Skybridge, 2018, acrylic, aluminum, LED lighting, electronic components, unique color program, 30,48 x 3,66 x 3,35 m (100 x 12 x 11 ft.), Detroit, Michigan

Phillip K. Smith III – Detroit Skybridge, 2018, acrylic, aluminum, LED lighting, electronic components, unique color program, 30,48 x 3,66 x 3,35 m (100 x 12 x 11 ft.), Detroit, Michigan

What is Phillip K. Smith III known for?

Famous for the creative use of lights and mirrors to develop installations, Philip has produced plenty of stunning designs in Coachella Valley and across California. Some of his outstanding portfolio projects include the Lucid Stead in California desert, Reflection Field in Coachella festival and the Aperture in Palm Springs Art Museum.

For Smith, art goes hand in hand with architecture. The more daunting the architectural designs, the more inspiring and the better the art. Despite the inspirational nature of large-scale projects, Smith denotes they require multi-skilling; thus, creativity, architect, and planning skills have to come in play.

Smith love for immersive sceneries is incomparable. He prefers landscapes that absorb to extremities and test his mettle to the limits. You’ll find his projects in the interiors of deserts and daunting places like the Skybridge.

Phillip K. Smith III - Lucid Stead, 2013, Joshua Tree, California

Phillip K. Smith III – Lucid Stead, 2013, Joshua Tree, California, photo: Steve King

Phillip K. Smith III - The Circle of Land and Sky, 2017, Desert X, Palm Desert, CA

Phillip K. Smith III – The Circle of Land and Sky, 2017, Desert X, Palm Desert, CA

Art in Detroit

The SkyBridge is one of the many artworks elevating Detroit’s reputation. Matisse and Picasso artwork collections in Detroit Institute of Arts and Ice House Detroit are some other fascinating artworks in Detroit.

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