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posted by LaminatorX on Saturday December 27 2014, @07:26AM   Printer-friendly
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: 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.