A subway to the sky

Students all over the world have been inspired by MULTI, TWIN and ACCEL. Their designs show what the city of the future will look like.

On the banks of the Chicago River, right across from the famous Marina City, three pale and bulky towers are rising from the ground. From a distance, they look like enormous stalagmites. Set against the backdrop of the big-city skyscrapers, the ensemble looks animated in an almost eerie way, as if it could continue growing in all directions at any time. This futuristic building complex was designed by architectural student Steven Fendley. Fendley is currently enrolled at the Architecture School of Georgia Tech University in Atlanta.

His design, like a dozen others, is part of a university project that thyssenkrupp Elevator supported in two different ways: first, in its capacity as a longtime partner of Georgia Tech via our Research Innovation Center (RIC) on campus, and second, by providing ideas. The 12 students involved in the project were tasked with designing buildings incorporating MULTI cable-free elevator technology and the TWIN elevator system, in which two cabins move independently of one another in a single shaft. Thanks to a magnetic drive, elevators featuring MULTI technology can move both vertically and horizontally.

The Chicago skyline sets the scene for Steven Fendley‘s building, in which visitors move vertically as well as horizontally by using MULTI und TWIN.

Ideas for urban planners

projects such as this one at Georgia Tech in order to inspire young architects and future urban planners. Provided with such ideas, they may develop building solutions that are made possible in the first place by elevator technology, and which will withstand the urban planning challenges that will arise in the coming decades.

For instance, last semester at the Illinois Institute of Technology (IIT), 25 students were asked to incorporate the ACCEL passenger transportation system into various designs, including ones for an airport of the future. Meanwhile, in Venice, Italy, thyssenkrupp Elevator recently carried out a future-oriented project with the Università Iuav di Venezia, the local architecture university.
At Georgia Tech, students were given one semester to develop and implement their ideas. This resulted in models that made a lasting impression on Thomas Felis, former Vice President Innovation in the Americas Business Unit. “I was thrilled above all else by the extreme precision of the models, which reflect the particular specifications of the MULTI and TWIN in a very accurately,” says
Felis, who had the idea for the project. As a special touch, these models were projected onto spaces in real major cities, such as Fendley’s
towers on the Chicago skyline.

Lars Spuybroek, a Dutch architect and artist, assumed academic leadership for the project. Spuybroek teaches architecture at Georgia Tech. He rose to prominence through his experiments with interactive buildings, including the D-Tower in Doetinchem, the Netherlands, which changes color in keeping with the perceived mood of local residents. Spuybroek writes that the technology developed by thyssenkrupp has revived an old dream inside him, one that architects have entertained for nearly a century: horizontal high-rise buildings that virtually float in the air and buildings that are connected to each other by bridges.

A giant hair dryer

Matt Peterka’s design comes very close to fulfilling this old dream. He called it Arrival, and describes it as “a second city in the sky, or, better still, an upside-down world with the subway in the sky.” Peterka integrated MULTI and TWIN into his model so that people could quickly move both vertically and horizontally and then disperse throughout the space. Arrival looks like
a huge hair dryer between skyscrapers on the Manhattan skyline.

Meanwhile, Danny Le has dedicated his design, ironically titled High Life, to the dead. In keeping with a Japanese funeral ceremony, a coffin is led through a building, alternating between vertical and horizontal motion, before the deceased finally reaches their ultimate place of rest at the very top.
“All the designs show how architecture will look in the intelligent cities of the future,” says Thomas Felis. “And they also show that smart mobility solutions must be incorporated into the buildings to accommodate the growing number of residents and users.”

This model shows a vertical cemetery developed by Danny Lee for the city of Tokyo.