MULTI: the revolution of mobility inside buildings - ISPLORA

MULTI: the revolution of mobility inside buildings


The first rope-free elevator designed by German manufacturer ThyssenKrupp will be able to move sidewaysand rotate by 90°

Over 150 years after the invention of the elevator, German company ThyssenKrupp is ready to revolutionize the market and world of construction with MULTI, the first rope-free elevator, capable of moving both vertically and horizontally. MULTI was presented in 2017 but its first installation will be in the OVG East Side Tower in Berlin, which is expected to be finished in 2020.

MULTI will allow shorter waiting times thanks to cabins which move in a continuous loop inside a single shaft and new materials and technologies will guarantee increased capacity and smaller footprints, thus allowing to optimize structures, making the best use of space and most of all totally changing mobility inside buildings.

There have been ancestors of modern elevators throughout history: Vitruvius refers that Archimedes of Syracuse had built machines similar to elevators, while other examples already appear in Islamic Spain. The origin of the elevator seems to date back to machines used in the Roman Age for scenery, then perfected in the early 19thcentury in the industrial field, in mines and ports. Other types of elevators appeared in European noble palaces, in the 18thcentury a “flying chair” was installed at the Versailles palace, soon followed by a replica at the Royal Palace of Caserta, to move people from one floor to another.

The first use of a modern elevator dates back to 1853, when inventor and industrialist Elisha Graves Otis presented his invention to the public at the World’s Fair in New York. The official patent belonging to Otis is dated 1861, after the American inventor himself had developed a safety system through a parachute apparatus, to prevent the cabin from free falling in the event of failure or rope breakage. Four years after the presentation at the Expo in New York, the first elevator was installed in 1857 at 488 Broadway, New York, in the Haughwout Building, designed by John P. Gaynor. In the following years, other famous engineers perfected it by using hydraulic circuits and an electric motor, introduced in elevators in 1880 by German inventor Werner von Siemens. In this case, the motor was installed on top of the cabin, allowing it to move upwards thanks to a system of revolving pinion gears which engaged racks at the sides of the shaft.

The elevator, as stated by Rem Koolhaas under the definition of this term in his Elements of architecture (Read the article),is at the base of the construction and origin of skyscrapers and more in general of modern metropolises: “disappearing into the core in the process, substituting visual drama with a surreal, disconnected experience shuttling blindly between floors… inside the elevator cab, passengers are voluntary captives in a random sampling of humankind – a freeze-frame of the city…”.

The elevator is therefore a modern vehicle which allowed the construction of “vertical” metropolises, first of all New York, a model which remained unchanged for over a century, apart from some applications such as the twin-deck elevator in 1932 or the first elevator parking lot in 1963, both designed by Otis in New York. The first great innovation dates back to the mid-90s, when the Otis company – with its Odyssey – developed a system where two capsules traveled inside the same shaft independently, thus opening the door to new possibilities, horizontal and even diagonal movements.

The elevator designed by ThyssenKrupp follows this path, introducing a significant technological innovation: the system of linear motors used by the Transrapid, the high-speed magnetic levitation train. 

The MULTI elevator revolutionizes the world of construction, guaranteeing vertical and horizontal movements, and that of architecture, allowing shapes and heights which were unimaginable

MULTI, in fact, aims at answering questions posed by constant urbanization and the design ambition for skyscrapers, providing new mobility solutions, increasingly compact and fast. Since 2017 some of these answers have been tested at the ThyssenKrupp Test Tower in Rottweil, a 246-meter tower which simulates the height of skyscrapers to test this transport system, pushing it to a speed of 18 m/sec. The Test Tower provides enough vertical space to test acceleration and braking systems and imitate the real behavior of buildings and the significant vibrations they experience, one of the greatest challenges in the development of an elevator. That is why the tower is also equipped with a 240-ton pendulum to offset the movements caused by the vibrations themselves.

The innovation represented by the MULTI system has already been awarded several prizes over the past two years and was also named by TIME magazine one of the “25 best innovations” of 2017.  It’s a flexible system which thanks to its linear motors and rails allows cabins to rotate by 90°. Furthermore, the magnetized cabins operate in the same shaft on an electromagnetic track which allows horizontal and vertical movements, recalling the elevators used by Harry Potter or Willy Wonka.

The former chairman of ThyssenKrupp Elevator’s executive board, Andreas Schierenbeck, during the launch of the system stated: "We believe Multi is a genuine game-changer that will truly transform the way people move, work and live in our built environment".


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