Not many elevators were designed to be noticed. They faithfully do their job and only attract attention when they’re out of order. Yet some elevators not only provide practical mobility solutions, they also impress with beautiful interiors or by overcoming special design challenges posed by unconventional architecture.
The very fewest of elevators, however, do not hide away in a shaft – featuring beautiful designs that can be appreciated from the outside. Urban Hub looks into ten impressive elevators from around the world.
Built in 1874 to connect the lower streets of Baixa to the higher Carmo Square, the Santa Justa Lift is an outdoor public elevator decorated in Neo-Gothic stylized ironwork. Other outdoor elevators from that period include the Katarina Elevator in Stockholm, Sweden, and the Polanco Lift in Valparaíso, Chile.
Opened in 1905, the Hammetschwand Lift is the tallest outdoor elevator in Europe. Hikers can walk a mountain path and then ride 387 feet (118 meters – shaft height) up to the Hammetschwand lookout on Bürgenstock plateau. Awaiting them at the top are beautiful views of Lake Lucerne.
St. Botolph is often known as the patron saint of what we might now call pedestrian travelers and, since 2011, the St. Botolph Building in central London caters to its walk-in visitors in a visually stunning way. The central atrium showcases 16 elevators operating independently in eight shafts via TWIN ® lift technology – both an efficient means of vertical transport and an artistic end in itself.
In a stunning use of contrast, the Mercedes-Benz Museum in the automotive capital of Stuttgart is not just about cars. From its stark futuristic concrete design to its record-holding World’s Largest Artificial Tornado (a fire-safety measure), this building is all about artistic design (and cars, of course). And beautiful elevators: sleek, metallic lift pods that demand attention as they travel the walls of the entrance areas.
The story of the Eiffel Tower is not complete without mentioning the elevators that make the tower accessible to all. When they first went into service in 1889, they made technological history – nothing before had ever carried such heavy loads so far off the ground. And ever since then, they’ve effortlessly lifted people – and elevated spirits – on a journey to an unsurpassed view of one of the world’s truly great cities.
Nestled inside the Radisson Blu Hotel in Berlin, Germany, AquaDom is an 82-foot (25 meter) tall elevator made of glass – and surrounded by a cylindrical aquarium full of fish. It is probably the only elevator in the world that needs daily maintenance – and feeding – by a team of 3-4 divers.
Located within the scenic Zhangjiajie National Park – a UNESCO World Heritage site – the Bailong Elevator is recognized as the world’s tallest outdoor elevator by Guinness World Records, rising to a height of 326 meters (1,070 feet). As it scales the cliff, its glass walls offer breathtaking panoramas of the park’s tree-topped sandstone pillars.
Tall buildings are always made with a so-called “service core” where the elevators, air ducts and water pipes are kept. Well, not all tall buildings. Lloyd’s Building in London moves all of those things to the outside, for all to see. Aren’t those elevators beautiful?
The large, 470-foot-high atrium inside of the Atlanta Marriott Marquis hotel is so visually captivating that it has been featured in movies, including two of the Hunger Games films. The shape of the interior space focuses your attention on the glass elevators which ride up the spine of the atrium.
At 1,076 feet (328 meters), Sky Tower in Auckland is the tallest freestanding structure in the southern hemisphere. The glass-walled elevators of this tall tower offer panoramic views of the skyline and Waitematā Harbour. But that’s not all: they even have glass floors so visitors can watch the ground fall away on their way up to the observation deck or the revolving restaurant.
Are elevators for transportation only? No way! The time is ripe for visionary architects and structural engineers to tap into the huge potential of elevators, and create more head-turning beauties and jaw-dropping marvels like the ones listed above!