Simons Foundation Proposes $40M Sky Bridge and Rooftop Center in Flatiron District

The Simons Foundation office buildings are located on Fifth Ave. on opposite sides of 21st St. making it difficult for staff and visitors to quickly switch between the two buildings. The non-profit hopes to bridge this gap by building a sky bridge connecting its two towers, 160 and 162 Fifth Ave and adding a rooftop auditorium.

| 13 Dec 2023 | 11:48

The Simons Foundation in partnership with the architectural firm Perkins Eastman, wants to install a $40 million glass pedestrian sky bridge and a new rooftop conference space atop its HQ building in the Flatiron District.

The not-for-profit foundation, which focuses on science and math research, seeks to build the sky bridge to increase safety and decrease the time wasted from crossing from one building to another in mid block between its buildings at 160 and 162 Fifth Ave. on opposite sides of 21st St. The rooftop conference room will feature auditorium style seating which will to expand existing conference rooms to accommodate growing demands.

According to the foundation, since the two buildings – 160 and 162 Fifth Ave–are mid-block, many staffers and visitors have to switch sides by crossing the street, which presents a potential safety hazard and makes transporting equipment difficult. “Over the last 25 years, the Simons Foundation and the Flatiron Institute have emerged as global leaders in basic science and mathematics, along with autism research. This project will enable our foundation to fully realize its potential by adding a contextually appropriate bridge to connect our two main sites with a new convening space for researchers, academics, and the Flatiron Institute’s scientists,” David Spergel, the president of Simons Foundation’s explained in an email to Our Town.

Perkins Eastman will design the proposed sky bridge and seamlessly connect the 9-story Neo-Renaissance style Simons Foundation building at 160 5th Ave (1892) and the 11-story Beaux Arts style Flatiron Institute building at 162 5th Ave (1903). While the design won’t mimic either of the two historical styles, it will still blend elegantly into New York’s dreamy skyline.

Currently, 160 Fifth Ave. houses the neuroscience division of the Simons Foundation’s Flatiron Institute, an auditorium, meeting rooms for science workshops, a collaborative rooftop space, a grant-making group, autism research groups, and support staff. On the other hand, 162 Fifth Ave. has dedicated its top floor to collaboration space, an auditorium, several classrooms, and the rest of the Flatiron Institute comprising of scientists in computational quantum physics, biology, astrophysics, mathematics, an auditorium, and a state-of-the-art supercomputing facility. Per the foundation, its rapid expansion has led to programmatic activities now taking place across both buildings, with meetings and conferences–which bring over five thousand event attendees from around the world annually – held across the two buildings.

While the plans have been drawn out, the foundation still requires permission from the city’s Landmarks Preservation Commission and the Department of Transportation. Crain’s New York reported that the foundation had already submitted its plans to both agencies in early November and are hopeful for their spot on the Commission’s Dec. 19 meeting agenda. Local City Councilmember Eric Bottcher shared that he has seen the proposals and “like(s) what I see so far,” expressing tentative support towards the idea.

Contingent to city approval, the foundation hopes to complete the project by 2026. “Collaboration in science is critical to breakthrough discovery. This proposal is designed to expand the flow of ideas and, ultimately, the amount of world-class science taking place in our city,” said Spergel.