Grand Canyon Skywalk
Project Scope and Description
Giroux Glass was hired to fit and install all of the glass for the Grand Canyon Skywalk - a transparent cantilevered viewing bridge suspended over the Western rim of the Grand Canyon. The horseshoe-shaped installation extends horizontally over a vertical drop of 1200+ meters (3937 ft) to the Colorado River below.
The floor of the Skywalk is comprised of 46 custom-built glass panels which weigh a combined total of 83,000 pounds. Each panel is nearly 3 inches thick and surfaced with a thin top layer of glass that can easily be removed and replaced if damaged. Combined with the bridge's structural elements, these glass panels are able to support the weight of 100 pounds per square foot, well beyond what's needed to support the weight of 120 visitors—the limit enforced at the site.
The walkway is also framed with large 5-to-7-foot glass walls that protect the visitors while offering unobstructed views of the canyon’s astonishing beauty.
Challenges and Solutions
All of the bridge's parts and pieces - literally down to the nuts and bolts had been ordered prior to Giroux Glass' involvement, which made assembly and installation quite challenging due to the bridge's unique horseshoe shape. Construction involved several rounds of layout revisions, as well as modifications to existing materials to make everything come together geometrically.
Location was another obstacle the team had to contend with. Reaching the site involved traversing 14 miles of dirt road, and cell service was virtually nonexistent in the area in 2006/2007 - the time of construction. To ensure consistent communication with our Las Vegas headquarters, the Giroux Glass team relied heavily on fax machines.
Weather was also a challenging factor. The project was slated for completion in March, 2007, and our team's work kicked off in December. This meant lots of long, hard hours during the surprisingly cold, rainy, and often snowy Arizona winter.
Finally, the crew began installation on the bridge before it had been cantilevered, meaning our team had to work on the actual edge of the grand canyon, with no barriers: a challenge for obvious reasons but one that our glaziers handled with grace. The project was completed on time, and as of today, the bridge has seen over 2 million visitors.
- Architect: Mark Ross Johnson
- General Contractor: Executive Construction Management
- Southwest Metal Smiths
- Saint Gobain