The Plus 15 (or +15) is the world’s most extensive pedestrian skywalk system, connecting more than 100 buildings in downtown Calgary, Alberta, Canada at a height of 15 feet (approximately 4,5 metres) above street level. It was conceived and designed between 1966 and 1969 by the Calgary Planning Department under the direction of architect Harold Hanen.
Originally the city’s urban plan allowed to create an open deck format, required to be structurally capable of being enclosed at a later time. However the Plus 15 was later preferred in order to maximize the benefit of the system through winter protection. The first +15 bridge was installed on January 21, 1970, connecting Calgary Place to the Calgary Inn (now the Westin Hotel). New developments were required to connect to the walkway system with bonus floorspace (“bonus density”) offered in exchange. By 1984, Calgary’s +15 Skywalk consisted of 38 bridges, 8 km of walkways and numerous public spaces. As of today, the +15 includes 62 enclosed bridges between buildings connecting a series of enclosed shopping centres and flagship stores with a walkway of 18km. Unfortunately we could not find any document from the original Plus 15 project: has any of our reader access to it?
The original covered street-level arcades of Calgary acted for a long time as a buffer between the public street and the private interior of the shops. The Plus 15 system introduced a more efficient strategy of connection between shopper, commodity, housing and workplaces, while providing climatic comfort. The public realm was replaced by an interior analogy that is neither public nor private, letting the street life fall towards an irreversible decline.
The Plus 15 network (here in a Google Maps-dedicated site) was used as the setting for Gary Burns‘s 2000 waydowntown, a slightly surreal film (here’s the trailer) where a group of colleagues in Calgary bet a month’s salary on who can last the longest without going outside the suffocating environment of recirculated air, food courts, and fluorescent lights becomes a metaphor of the meaningless-ness of (Canadian) corporate culture. Working time and life time blurs in a quest for survival by ant-like individuals whose life is constantly connected to their jobs, even in a literal way since their apartments and their offices all join the Plus 15 network.
1966 The future of downtown Calgary, on the Canadian Archive of Urban Speculation & Enquiry
Pedways: Pedways in Canada, Skyways, Underground City, Montreal, Winnipeg Walkway, Path, +15, Mumbai Skywalks, Chicago Pedway
A Public Passageway: Exploring Calgary’s Plus 15 System by Nick O.W. Sully B.A., The University Of Calgary, 1992