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posted by LaminatorX on Saturday December 27 2014, @07:26AM   Printer-friendly [Skip to comment(s)]
from the vertical-integration dept.

For most city-dwellers, the elevator is an unremarkable machine that inspires none of the passion or interest that Americans afford trains, jets, and even bicycles. But according to Daniel Wilk the automobile and the elevator have been locked in a “secret war” for over a century, with cars making it possible for people to spread horizontally, encouraging sprawl and suburbia, and elevators pushing them toward life in dense clusters of towering vertical columns.

Elevators first arrived in America during the 1860s, in the lobbies of luxurious hotels, where they served as a plush conveyance that saved the well-heeled traveler the annoyance of climbing stairs. It wasn’t until the 1870s, when elevators showed up in office buildings, that the technology really started to leave a mark on urban culture. Business owners stymied by the lack of available space could look up and see room for growth where there was previously nothing but air—a development that was particularly welcome in New York, where a real estate crunch in Manhattan’s business district had, for a time, forced city leaders to consider moving the entire financial sector uptown. Advances in elevator technology combined with new steel frame construction methods to push the height limits of buildings higher and higher. In the 1890s, the tallest building in the world was the 20-story Masonic Temple in Chicago. By 1913, when hydraulic elevators had been replaced with much speedier and more efficient electrical ones, it was the 55-story Woolworth Building in New York, still one of the one-hundred tallest buildings in the United States as well as one of the twenty tallest buildings in New York City. "If we didn't have elevators," says Patrick Carrajat, the founder of the Elevator Museum in New York, "we would have a megalopolis, one continuous city, stretching from Philadelphia to Boston, because everything would be five or six stories tall."

But the elevator did more than make New York the city of skyscrapers, it changed the way we live. “The elevator played a role in the profound reorganization of the building,” writes Andreas Bernard. That means a shift from single-family houses and businesses to apartments and office buildings. “Suddenly … it was possible to encounter strangers almost anywhere.” The elevator, in other words, made us more social — even if that social interaction often involved muttered small talk and staring at doors. Elevators also reinforced a social hierarchy; for while we rode the same elevators, those who rode higher lived above the fray. "It put the “Upper” into the East Side. It prevented Fifth Avenue from becoming Wall Street," writes Stephen Lynch. "It made “penthouse” the most important word in real estate."

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  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Saturday December 27 2014, @01:25PM

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday December 27 2014, @01:25PM (#129456)

    Floor.

    Next floor #1.

  • (Score: 1) by cellocgw on Saturday December 27 2014, @01:38PM

    by cellocgw (4190) on Saturday December 27 2014, @01:38PM (#129457)

    Me, I'd say the "war" was more a case of commuter options vs. elevator, not just the car. But even that's a bit off, since even with good trains or busses (there's never a good commute via car :-( ) it takes longer to get to your work destination than it does to drop down an elevator and walk a few blocks.

    Which leads to the next possible conflict: did elevators make it easy for bosses to force their entire workstaff to work at one location, rather than spread out over either a small-building "farm" or buildings in multiple towns? Was this a good thing or a bad thing for overall company productivity? and so on.

    --
    Physicist, cellist, former OTTer (1190) resume: https://app.box.com/witthoftresume
    • (Score: 3, Funny) by frojack on Saturday December 27 2014, @08:15PM

      by frojack (1554) Subscriber Badge on Saturday December 27 2014, @08:15PM (#129530) Journal

      You know, some things are actually NOT conspiracies. I know, right? Who knew!

      --
      No, you are mistaken. I've always had this sig.
    • (Score: 2) by GungnirSniper on Saturday December 27 2014, @09:16PM

      by GungnirSniper (1671) on Saturday December 27 2014, @09:16PM (#129554) Journal

      (there's never a good commute via car :-( )

      Yes there is, just come in earlier or later than everyone else. I live and work in suburbia, and my commute starts at 9:30. Unless there was a nasty accident earlier, it is smooth sailing. Now why everyone's start and end times have to be 8 and 5, I'll never understand. I think we'll eventually see tax credits to companies who allow earlier and later starts.

      • (Score: 2, Interesting) by cellocgw on Saturday December 27 2014, @09:26PM

        by cellocgw (4190) on Saturday December 27 2014, @09:26PM (#129557)

        Dunno where you live, but shifting times has been tried here in Eastern MA and it didn't make much difference. Starting times range from 6:30 AM to 8:30 AM, and many companies allow "flex hours" whereby folks only need to be on premises for some core time like 10-2 , but our roads are systolic almost all the time.

        Fill any conduit with thousands of independently-operated vehicles and you'll exceed the Reynolds Number in short order.
        I'll take walking to a bus or subway stop, riding en masse, and walking from the other end any day.
        Then again, there's Boston's infamous Green Line :-(

        --
        Physicist, cellist, former OTTer (1190) resume: https://app.box.com/witthoftresume
  • (Score: 1) by rufty on Saturday December 27 2014, @02:14PM

    by rufty (381) on Saturday December 27 2014, @02:14PM (#129460)

    It's had some ups and downs.

  • (Score: 1, Insightful) by Anonymous Coward on Saturday December 27 2014, @07:26PM

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday December 27 2014, @07:26PM (#129515)

    Air conditioning transformed Singapore- hard to squeeze lots of people into higher density buildings/skyscrapers in a tropical climate and get them to be productive without air-conditioning. http://blogs.telegraph.co.uk/culture/stephenhough/100055604/the-most-important-invention-of-the-20th-century/ [telegraph.co.uk]

    I suppose places like Las Vegas wouldn't be the same without air conditioning?

  • (Score: 3, Interesting) by frojack on Saturday December 27 2014, @08:43PM

    by frojack (1554) Subscriber Badge on Saturday December 27 2014, @08:43PM (#129536) Journal

    I have an colleague in London who used to be always dismayed by the fact that virtually any city in the US builds UP while London was built Out. Of course this isn't strictly true any more as London has, like most places started building UP after running up against the practical limits of OUT.

    Its sort of like the design of Super Computers, where size started to affect signal delay, and some (Cray) started opting for Round rather than liner layouts. (A claim I've often considered marketing hype). But when a trip to market to get supplies involved longer and longer distances, it soon becomes apparent that down 40 stories and across the street is cheaper and faster than across 40 blocks of traffic (or 40 miles).

    Elevators are easy. Up/Down. No branches.
    Roads are hard. They have to go everywhere, with thousands of crossings.

    When you throw in the need to deal with people in the adjacent building things get tricky, and the limitations of elevators become apparent.

    First we go with sky bridges. Walking will probably be found too slow (as stairs were), and we will probably adopt horizontal elevators between buildings. People movers (conveyor belts, moving sidewalks), and soon according to this Verge article [theverge.com] true horizontal "elevators" that could one day, travel between buildings.

    --
    No, you are mistaken. I've always had this sig.
    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Sunday December 28 2014, @12:20AM

      by Anonymous Coward on Sunday December 28 2014, @12:20AM (#129599)

      horizontal elevators between buildings

      Interesting idea.
      A previous idea:
      Petronas Towers (Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia) [wikipedia.org]
      Between the towers [wikipedia.org]

      Especially spectacular after dark. [blogspot.com]
      Once the tallest thing standing. Now dwarfed. [wikimedia.org]

      ...and, as long as we're talking about tall buildings, a couple of quotes from "The Towering Inferno".
      Fire battalion Chief Mike O'Hallorhan to architect Doug Roberts:
      Now, you know there's no sure way for us to fight a fire in anything over the seventh floor, but you guys just keep building 'em as high as you can.

      Architect Doug Roberts to construction contractor James Duncan:
      If you had to cut costs, why didn't you cut floors instead of corners? [imdb.com]

      -- gewg_

      • (Score: 3, Interesting) by frojack on Sunday December 28 2014, @02:48AM

        by frojack (1554) Subscriber Badge on Sunday December 28 2014, @02:48AM (#129620) Journal

        You don't get to quote fictional characters from a Movie to prove a point.

        Its amazing how few people have been killed in sky scraper fires [wikipedia.org], especially when you eliminate terrorist attacks and construction fires (when not all systems are operational). The days when firemen go up in ladders is pretty much over. They fight these fires form the inside.

        --
        No, you are mistaken. I've always had this sig.
        • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Sunday December 28 2014, @03:57AM

          by Anonymous Coward on Sunday December 28 2014, @03:57AM (#129635)

          They fight these fires [from] the inside

          ...and die by the hundreds.
          ...as do the folks on the upper floors.
          (Yeah, extreme edge case.)

          The best laws ever passed were the ones mandating fire sprinklers.
          ...but those can't deal with thousands of gallons of jet fuel igniting tons of plastic furnishings and hundreds of mountains of paper records.

          -- gewg_

          • (Score: 2) by frojack on Sunday December 28 2014, @07:14PM

            by frojack (1554) Subscriber Badge on Sunday December 28 2014, @07:14PM (#129755) Journal

            ...and die by the hundreds.
            ...as do the folks on the upper floors.

            Apparently you didn't bother to read the page I posted, showing the number of sky scraper fire deaths are minuscule.
            If fact, remove 9/11, and you've removed 90% of all skyscraper fire deaths.

            --
            No, you are mistaken. I've always had this sig.
            • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Sunday December 28 2014, @10:29PM

              by Anonymous Coward on Sunday December 28 2014, @10:29PM (#129799)

              the page I posted

              ...which lists in the Deaths column the number 2 for the 9/11 events.
              Not a great deal of veracity there. 8-(

              ...and I did note that 9/11 is an edge case.

              When I think of "skyscraper fire", I think of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire of 1911, on the 8th, 9th, and 10th floors; people jumping to their deaths rather than being burned alive.
              The factory owners got away without a scratch and received no punishment for numerous code violations.
              That event changed a lot of things for Working Class people.

              I was angered (but not surprised) that Lamestream Media didn't make a big deal of the centennial of that.

              -- gewg_

              • (Score: 2) by frojack on Monday December 29 2014, @03:20AM

                by frojack (1554) Subscriber Badge on Monday December 29 2014, @03:20AM (#129855) Journal

                ...which lists in the Deaths column the number 2 for the 9/11 events.
                Not a great deal of veracity there. 8-(

                Reading comprehension 101, gewg_. Every building is listed separately.

                --
                No, you are mistaken. I've always had this sig.
  • (Score: 2) by darkfeline on Saturday December 27 2014, @10:29PM

    by darkfeline (1030) on Saturday December 27 2014, @10:29PM (#129578) Homepage

    If you ask me, we would have been better off with horizontal "elevators": futuristic trains, trams, public transportation, however you want to imagine it. Less pollution of the skyline and more flexible to boot, since with elevators you only get one dimension to work with, while with trams you would get two. You also kill two birds with one stone by eliminating or reducing automobile pollution, congestion, and parking problems. Although you'll have to give up competing to raise the tallest erection into the heavens, so we'll have to compensate by inventing more penis measuring contests, I suppose.

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    • (Score: 2) by TheLink on Sunday December 28 2014, @07:57PM

      by TheLink (332) on Sunday December 28 2014, @07:57PM (#129768) Journal
      They are more complementary or even synergistic technologies than competing technologies.

      The elevators (and the tall buildings they enable) help you increase population density per square km. This helps increase the number of people within walking/cycling distance of your tram/train stations.

      Without tall buildings, instead of one station having 5000-50000 people within 5 minutes walk (400m or 0.25 miles), you might only have 500 people within 5 minutes walk or even merely 5-50 in the case of rural areas.

      Trains without tall buildings can still be helpful but they get very useful when you have dense cities with many tall buildings. The buildings and their elevators become extensions of the train/subway network. Every floor there's a "train station", any of the thousands of people in the building can enter a vertical train, leave at ground floor and within 5 minutes they're in a subway station and soon they're in another building where they might have a meeting with one of thousands of other people.
      • (Score: 2) by darkfeline on Monday December 29 2014, @01:02AM

        by darkfeline (1030) on Monday December 29 2014, @01:02AM (#129823) Homepage

        I like the way you think. When will we get to see such a futuristic metropolis?

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        • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 29 2014, @05:09PM

          by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 29 2014, @05:09PM (#129983)

          When you visit Tokyo or Singapore.