Imagine this. It’s been a long day in college, but you’re finally done and are ready to leave for the hostel or home. You climb up to the skywalk, earphones in, staring at your screen, but once on the deck of the skywalk, you feel the cool breeze, you can see the orange sun setting into the cotton candy sky and just for a few fleeting moments, the world seems to dissolve around you. You have been gifted a few moments of serenity, utterly oblivious to the busy Avinashi Road rumbling right below your feet and all the books and lab equipment drudging your shoulders. Dead center of chaos, you find some calm. Well, we’re sure you didn’t have to imagine that, you’d just have to recall.
The skywalk has become a trademark of PSG Tech. With its bright yellow arch and flashing lights, it’s hard not to notice the structure as you drive past Avinash road. Watch any video of Coimbatore, a drone view of the glistening steel arch is sure to pass by. Safe to say the skywalk is iconic and is the most nostalgia-inducing structure for most PSG students & Alumni.
The skywalk is a part of a lot of our stories and memories.
But what is the story of the skywalk?
Let's rewind to the 1980s. While it's hard to imagine the college without the skywalk now, it was more than just a missing aesthetic back then. It was a game of life or death running across a busy Avinashi Road to get to college, which led to the PSG management’s decision to build a pedestrian bridge for the students.
Initially, there were two ideas in a debate. One was to build a pedestrian overbridge like the one we have today. And the other was an underground passage. With the former making the cut, the project finally took off in 1998. Many approvals later, the management gave the project to L&T for construction as a ‘design, build and handover’ project.
While L&T is an external organization, a good number of engineers associated with the construction were PSG alumni. Which makes the story of the skywalk all the more special. Right from the people who approved the plan in Chennai, to the designers and the construction authorities assembling the skywalk, PSG's alumni were involved in every step.
The initial project was set to complete as a concrete bridge in 2003. But due to a structural mishap at the final stage of the project, the bridge had to be reworked as a steel structure. This time, the college’s civil department designed the structure in collaboration with L&T. In their collaboration, came to life an eclectic structure combining precise craftsmanship and a graceful design.
If anything is as breathtaking as the structure itself, is how it was erected. The entire skywalk was fabricated, assembled, welded into a single unit in Sarvajana school’s ground, and was erected as a whole. Years of the perseverance of so many people came to life the moment when the holes of the structure fit perfectly into the bolts of the concrete column. The structure was finally erected on a night of the year 2007, in the presence of the managing trustee, civil department of the college, and the L&T crew. The monumental day did take a few hours of curtailing the traffic on Avinashi road. Since then many improvisations like the LED lighting have contributed to the grandiose structure of the skywalk we know and love today.
The skywalk has aged gracefully. For years it has been an ingrained part of the student culture. Unfortunately, this is the point where this article takes a sour turn. At the time of writing this article, it has been confirmed that the skywalk will have to be dismantled, allowing for what is proposed to be Tamilnadu’s longest road bridge, with an approximate budget of Rs 1650 crores.
The skywalk is a standing testament to the institute’s grandeur and the spirit of its people. While the physical structure may be dismantled, the same cannot be said about its legacy and the everlasting memories it carries. As we witness the end of an era, we have hopes for the start of something new and just as magnificent.
Team bridge would like to thank Mrs. M F Febin (BE Civil Engineering 1992, ME Structural Engineering 1994). She was part of the team from L&T Construction that designed the Skywalk structure and she is also the Secretary of the Chennai chapter of the PSG Tech Alumni Association (PSGTAA).
We would also like to thank Dr. L S Jayagopal. Starting as a Lecturer at PSG College of Technology in 1967, he had risen to the position of Professor and Head of Civil Engineering, over an academic career of 33 years, before his retirement in 2001 June. He was part of the team from PSG Tech that collaborated with L&T Constructions to design the final Structure of the bridge. Additionally, we would like to thank Nityasri U, for assisting us in writing this article.