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  • EAST RIVER SKYWAY

    Future transit concept


The Project

A New Landmark

Public transportation is a vital component of modern, urban settings. In addition to providing essential avenues of mobility, well-designed transit infrastructure can be transformational.  Conceptualized by CityRealty CEO Daniel Levy, the proposed East River Skyway does just that, bridging two sister neighborhoods of New York City (Lower East Side and Brooklyn’s Williamsburg) together with a high-speed, scenic gondola route. Levy’s concept would add an additional transportation proposition to the existing subway lines –– a connection that strengthens the two cultural epicenters –– and an iconic, experiential destination for both visitors and commuters alike.

Leveraging over one hundred and fifty years of combined design experience and public transportation expertise, Pininfarina teamed up with Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (SOM) to develop a landmark design concept for Levy’s proposed gondola route.


The Way

Stitched together by Sky

As both commuters and visitors make their way through SOM’s main Skyway station in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, Pininfarina’s concept for the cable cars comes into focus –– a sleek, glass-fronted gondola that speaks to the firm’s commitment to both form and function. Considering the car from a 360-degree perspective, understanding the potential for full-scale visibility given the elevated positioning of the route, Pininfarina drew up a scheme for the vessel that approaches views from the inside and from the outside equally.

The resulting cable car design leverages the scenic potential of the proposed East River Skyway though an all-glass concept, held together by a continuous, closed frame that loops around the capsule – intended to aesthetically reinforce a sense of safety and security for passengers through a modern approach. The resulting enclosure has wide expanses of glass on the four lateral sides and wraps up onto the roof. The sides and underside of the carriage is expressed as a ring of LED light, offering a constantly moving constellation of points that will hover above the city. The LEDs are powered through photovoltaic solar panels and can be easily adjusted to accommodate seasonal changes or artistic messages.

Inside the car, a single surface is molded to create broad seating at both ends of the car. Two free standing circular benches are supported by a vertical grab-bar that transitions into a sinuous lighting feature suspended beneath the ceiling. The positioning of the benches allows passengers to take in unhindered views of the city below, while securing themselves for the duration of the experience. The final vessel design concept is complete with a mechanical arm that attaches the capsule to SOM’s loop structure seamlessly, marrying form and function.

The Idea

Redefining the Future of Transportation

Considering the SOM and Pininfarina design concepts together, Levy’s proposed Skyway would become a significant landmark. Rising above the local skyline, passengers will enjoy a cable car ride that offers an enlightened perspective on the context below. The cable cars would ascend to 300+ feet, gliding across the waterway with animated views of the Williamsburg Bridge, surreally perched just outside the car window. Through a mix of creative urban planning and strategic programming, this concept would offer its passengers an entirely new way to see and experience the lower part of the great city –– expertly marrying innovative structural engineering and a desire to create a dynamic and lasting impression on the city’s skyline, all while providing beauty, functionality, and a fresh approach to urban mobility.

Image Credits: SOM, Pininfarina

About Skidmore, Owings & Merrill

Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (SOM) is an influential collective of architects, designers, engineers and planners, responsible for some of the world’s most technically and environmentally advanced buildings, and significant public spaces. From a strategic regional plan to a single piece of furniture, SOM’s designs anticipate change in the way we live, work and communicate, and have brought lasting value to communities around the world. The firm’s approach is highly collaborative, and its interdisciplinary team is engaged on a wide range of international projects, with creative studios based across the globe.

Pininfarina's way to Transportation


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