The Building: Vancouver Island’s Upward Spiral with Panoramic Views –

The Vancouver Island Malahat SkyWalk is a tourist spectacle, in the best sense of the word.

Twenty years ago, David Greenfield and Trevor Dunn, part of the team behind the Sea to Sky Gondola in Squamish, BC, saw a golden opportunity for a tourist attraction on Vancouver Island. The duo explored a wooded site right next to a hightraffic corridor of the Trans-Canada Highway between Victoria and Nanaimo. The area functioned as little more than a tipping point for logging trucks, but historically it had been a key commercial and rest stop for indigenous peoples groups en route to the United States.

The SkyWalk structure may be 10 stories tall, but its interior path twists upward at a manageable five-degree incline.

Dunn and Greenfield’s dreams for the property went beyond just raising cash—they wanted a nature-focused drawing with a view unreachable to most city folk. Finally, four years ago, they submitted a proposal to the Malahat First Nation, which held the rights to the land, to make their vision a reality. The $17 million Malahat SkyWalk, completed in July 2021, rises along Vancouver Island’s Saanich Inlet offering majestic 360-degree views of Finlayson Arm, the Gulf Islands and, on a clear day , including the state of Washington.

The 10-story engineering marvel, designed by Whistler-based architect Brent Murdoch, features a corkscrew design that gradually leads visitors up a spiral ramp to a panoramic observation deck. The structure is made of steel base plates, glue-laminated Douglas fir columns (sourced from Kinsol Timber, four miles away) and threaded rods that engineering firm Aspect used to hold the tower together.

Victoria-based artist Tanya Bub has transformed hundreds of pieces of driftwood into the collection of animal sculptures that watch over the SkyWalk site.

Adding to the fun factor is the SkyWalk “adventure net,” an 84-square-meter rope net suspended over the central axis of the building that visitors, or at least those without a crippling fear of heights, can walk across or just lie down afterwards. your journey to the top of the SkyWalk. For those looking to race to the bottom, there is an eight-story slide.

The tower would not exist without the green light of the Malahat Nation, whose connection to the land is recognized throughout the site. Educational posters illustrate the nation’s traditional use of local plant life, and a historically accurate cedar canoe sits inside the SkyWalk gift shop. The nation also receives a share of ticket sales, and SkyWalk has welcomed more than 250,000 visitors since it opened last year. The attraction stays open through all four seasons, even when the dreamy fall mists and winter snow roll in. Everything is visible from the top.

This article appears in print in the December 2022 issue of maclean’s magazine. Buy the edition for $8.99 or better yet, subscribe to the monthly print magazine for just $39.99.

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