City Creek's two-block-long retractable skylight (image, below) is considered one of the most complex kinetic structures.
Courtesy of Uni-Systems

Thanks to his movable feat on high, Uni-Systems' Mark Silvera is a behind-the-scenes linchpin of City Creek, Salt Lake City's 23-acre urban redevelopment.


Most eye-catching in the mini-village is a 470-ft-long bi-parting skylight that, from below, "disappears" from sight. Covering a pedestrian shopping street, the gently curved skylight ranks among the most complex kinetic structures.

Mechanized-architecture consultant Uni-Systems initially had lost its bid to engineer the skylight. But the firm got a second chance when the winner opted out of the job. Silvera, who was not involved with his firm's first bid, was asked to improve upon the early schemes and bring down Uni-Systems' original price.

Early concepts called for the skylight panels to retract almost fully before they curtsied, but that introduced excessive forces and other complications, says the senior project engineer and manager.

His idea was to tip the panels as they retracted on travel rails using upwardly sloped back spans, which spread out the forces and reduced power needs. "Our price came down several million dollars from our original estimate," says Silvera.

Calling the skylight his most demanding job ever, Jeremy Jenkins, managing director at steel fabricator Ducworks Inc., Logan, Utah, says he was quite thankful for Silvera's willingness to "jump in, roll up his sleeves and tackle whatever challenge" came up in the shop.

Others echo Jenkins' sentiments, saying Silvera's leadership produced exemplary results. The proof is in the pudding: The skylight has been operating successfully since City Creek opened last March.