Design: Fast Life Along the Skywalks

By going indoors, city dwellers escape the city

Back in the 1960s, when spick-and-span, won't-the-future-be-fab urban schemes were still regarded with automatic enthusiasm by almost everyone, and when suburban malls were suddenly sucking shoppers away from central cities, the idea seemed perfect: build enclosed bridges -- skywalks! -- between the upper stories of downtown office buildings, stores and hotels, and nobody will ever have to go outdoors at all. Fortunately, most such future-a-go-go notions of the era -- moving sidewalks or 300-story apartment towers -- never came to much.

Skywalks, however, have proliferated. During the past 25 years, the downtowns of more than a score of cities in the...