In October 2003 David Jin hires architect Mark Johnson for the project. He has big experience building commercial and residential buildings, and for the first time he is standing up against a challenge like Skywalk. No one has design anything like it until now.
”David Jin asked me to create something unique connected to his feeling when he first saw the Grand Canyon. He has been impressed by the eagles who soar like they were floating in the air. ” Mark R. Johnson, MRJ Architects says
To complete the project, Johnson and Jin turn to Lochsa Engineering. This company has built many impressive hotels in Las Vegas including Wynn Resort, Mandalay Bay and Ceaser Palace. The company has experience using glass – it has built the Shark Reef Aquarium at Mandalay Bay. David and Mark meet Bill Karren of Lochsa engineering. At the end of their conversation they asked him if he thinks that they can show the structure 15-18 or 20 meters in the air without supporting it.
”My first thinking was this is a very wild idea. It was different and it was definitely going to be fun building it.” – Kenneth “Bill” Karren, Jr., Co-Owner, Lochsa Engineering.
While Mark and Bill discuss the design, the entrepreneur David Jin and the Hulapai tribe went to select the place for Skywalk. They choose a great place on the west ledge of the canyon called Eagle Point. The place carries this name because it looks like an eagle with outspread wings. Eagle Point is a sacred place for Hualapai nation who believe that the eagle carries they prayers away to the Creator. Unlike the tiered rocks that preponderate in the Canyon, here, the rock wall descends 600 meters perpendicular. As an addition there is a wonderful overview of the Grand Canyon and Colorado River.
The geologist John Peck has been chosen to inspect the place. This is what he remembers:
”I went out in November and inspected the geological composition at Eagle Point for a whole day. The place was situated right at a big cleft in the rock. I was surprised that the huge rock ledge hasn’t fallen yet.
Peck’s conclusion is that the place is not appropriate for Skywalk. He founds a better place, which is just a 100 meters north. He found out that the density and the strength of the red limestone at the place can hold up to 1125 kilograms per square centimeter. This is 4 or 5 times stronger than the regular concrete on the street. That also meant that drilling the rock will be hard task.
Knowing how though the red limestone is, Bill Kerran knows drilling the rock will be difficult. He concentrates on the next task: organizing man power, equipment and necessary resources to begin the building process.
Difficulties when building the Grand Canyon Skywalk
The remoteness of the place where Skywalk is to be build generates a lot of issues, similar to those when building the Hoover Dam 70 years earlier.
John Peck says:
“We knew that the place is remote and this was a serious issue having in mind how complicated the design and the construction of Skywalk are.”
There is no electricity here, such should be provided by electricity generators. There is no water, and no facilities for the workers either. Temporary facilities should be build. The closest city is Kingman, Arizona – 110 kilometers away. The trucks carrying material, should elapse the last 20 kilometers over a winding dirt road.
The good organization allowed Bill Karren and his team to overcome the logistic obstacles. But they should also overcome a lot of unpredicted obstacles to realize their dream of building Skywalk.