Elevators have a simple task: take passengers from one floor to another safely. But it doesn’t mean that they have to be boring. Elevator towers for urban transport and modern design elevators attract great attention of tourists, because of its uniqueness, unusual looks and the driving experience. Let’s have a closer look at the most unusual elevators around the world.
1. AquaDom, Germany
The AquaDom in Berlin, Germany, is a 25 metre (82ft) tall cylindrical acrylic glass aquarium with built-in transparent elevator. It is located at the Radisson Blu Hotel in Berlin-Mitte. The DomAquarée complex also contains a hotel, offices, a restaurant, and the aquarium Sea Life Centre.
The AquaDom was opened in 2004. It cost about 12.8 million euros. The overall construction of the aquarium was designed and built by International Concept Management, Inc.. The acrylic cylinder was constructed by the U.S. company Reynolds Polymer Technology. It is now the main attraction of the Berlin Sea Life Centre.
The outside cylinder was manufactured on-site from four pieces; the inside cylinder for the elevator was delivered in one piece. The Aquadom is the largest acrylic cylindrical aquarium in the world, with a diameter of about 11 metres (36ft), and it is built on a 9 metre (30ft) tall foundation.
Filled with 1,000,000 litres of water, it contains over 1,500 fish of 50 species. The feeding of the fish and the cleaning of the fish tank is performed daily by 3-4 divers. The fish need 8 kg of fish food. [link, map]
2. Falkirk Wheel, UK
The Falkirk Wheel is a rotating boat lift in Scotland. It connects the Forth and Clyde Canal with the Union Canal. Named after the nearby town of Falkirk in central Scotland, the lift opened in 2002. The two canals it serves were previously connected by a series of 11 locks, but by the 1930s these had fallen into disuse. The locks were filled in and the land built upon.
The difference in height of the two canals at the wheel is 24 metres (79 ft), roughly equivalent to the height of an eight-storey building. But the Union Canal is 11 m (36ft) higher than the aqueduct which meets the wheel, and boats must pass through a pair of locks to descend from this canal onto the aqueduct at the top of the wheel. The aqueduct could not have been positioned higher due to conflicts with the historically important Antonine Wall.
The wheel has an overall diameter of 35 metres (115 ft) and consists of two opposing arms which extend 15 metres beyond the central axle and take the shape of a Celtic-inspired, double-headed axe. Two sets of these axe-shaped arms are attached about 35 metres (115 ft) apart to a 3.5 metres (11 ft) diameter axle. Two diametrically opposed water-filled caissons, each with a capacity of 80,000 imperial gallons (360,000 l; 96,000 US gal), are fitted between the ends of the arms.
The Falkirk Wheel cost £17.5 million, and the restoration project as a whole cost £84.5 million. The Falkirk Wheel Visitor Centre offers scheduled one-hour, round trip boat tours, called “The Falkirk Wheel Experience”, that include passage on the wheel. The tours start below the wheel in the Forth & Clyde Canal, ascend via the wheel to the Union Canal, visit nearby areas on the Union Canal, and then return. [link, map]
3. Globen Skyview, Sweden
Skyview is a gondola lift built on the south side of the Ericsson Globe, Stockholm. The Ericsson Globe is currently the largest hemispherical building in the world and took two and a half years to build. Shaped like a large white ball, it has a diameter of 110 metres (361 feet) and an inner height of 85 metres (279 feet).
The lift is 100 metres (330 ft), and consists of two spherical cabins, which gives the visitors an entertaining ride up to the top of the Globe, which is about 130 metres (425ft) above sea level.
The project began in 2004 and opened in February 2010. 160,000 people rode during the first year of operation.
4. Hammetschwand Elevator, Switzerland
The Hammetschwand Lift is the highest exterior elevator of Europe and is located in Switzerland. It connects a spectacular rock path with the lookout point Hammetschwand on the Bürgenstock plateau overlooking Lake Lucerne.
The hotel resort Buergenstock located at 847 meters a.s.l. (2.780ft) has been a popular vacation spot since 1872. Its attractiveness was enhanced by the spectacular path along the vertical rock face and by an outdoor open lift. To this day the lift and the path have lost none of their attraction.
The new lift was built and opened by the Schindler Group. It whisks passengers 153 meters (500ft) up to the summit of the Hammetschwand in less than one minute. It was regarded as a pioneering feat in those days and is still a record holder, since the Hammetschwand lift is holding the number one position as Europe’s highest exterior lift. [link, map]
5. Bailong Elevator, China
The Bailong Elevator is a glass elevator built onto the side of a huge cliff in the Wulingyuan area of Zhangjiajie, China that is 1,070 feet (330 m) high. It is claimed to be the highest and heaviest outdoor elevator in the world. Construction of the elevator began in October 1999, and it was opened to the public by 2002.
The environmental effects of the elevator have been a subject of debate and controversy, as the Wulingyan area was designated a World Heritage Site in 2002. Operations were stopped for 10 months in 2002-2003, reportedly due to safety concerns, not environmental ones.
Bailong Elevator takes less than 2 minutes to climb to the summit and is said to be the highest and, quickest sightseeing elevator in the world, with the greatest capacity (50 people). [link1, link2, map]
6. Gateway Arch Elevator, USA
One of the “must sees” of St. Louis, Missouri, is the Gateway Arch. To go to the top of the Arch, passengers in groups of five enter an egg-shaped compartment containing five seats and a flat floor. Eight compartments are linked to form a train.
These compartments individually retain an appropriate level by periodically rotating every 5 degrees, which allows them to maintain the correct orientation while the entire train follows curved tracks up one leg of the arch.
The trip to the top of the Arch takes four minutes, and the trip back down takes three minutes. The car doors have narrow glass panes, allowing passengers to see the interior stairways and structure of the Arch during the trip. [link, map]
7. Santa Justa Lift, Portugal
The Santa Justa Lift, also called Carmo Lift, is an elevator/lift in civil parish of Santa Justa, in the historical city of Lisbon, situated at the end of Rua de Santa Justa. It connects the lower streets of the Baixa with the higher Largo do Carmo (Carmo Square.) Since its construction (1901), the Lift has become a tourist attraction for Lisbon as, among the urban lifts in the city, Santa Justa is the only remaining vertical one.
On the top floor is a kiosk and lookout, with panoramic views of the city, while connections to the floors below are made (in addition to the elevator) by two spiral staircases, with different patterns on each storey. The main machinery was installed at the base of the Elevator, while at the exit to the Largo do Carmo there is a veranda to allow circulation. The corridor that passes above the structure, was transformed into a terrace, and exits to Largo do Carmo through an iron gate.
The Lift is decorated in a Neo-Gothic style in iron. Since this was a new material at the time of its construction, it is symbolic of the technical and memorial construction from this period, representing the culture of the 1900s, when the structure and elevators were considered a magical innovation and portent of a modern age. [link, map]
8. Lacerda Elevator, Brazil
The Lacerda Elevator is located in the city of Salvador, Bahia. One of the principal touristic points and postcards of the city, it’s situated in the Cayru Plaza, and connects the Cidade Baixa (Lower City) with the Cidade Alta (Upper City).
The most famous elevator of Bahia transports some 900 thousand passengers per month or around 28 thousand passengers per day at the cost of five centavos (2 US cents) per passenger and a duration of 30 seconds. This elevator reaches a height of 72 meters (235ft).
9. Mercedes-Benz Museum Elevators, Germany
Though every object, including the World’s Largest Artificial Tornado, at the Mercedes-Benz Museum, an automotive museum in Stuttgart, Germany, has its own charm and history related to it, but the pill-like elevators moving up and down on three like vertical tracks in the main atrium of the museum gives an amazing experience the visitors.
Connecting to the various floors of the museum, the metal pods combining an abstract ghost like exterior with dramatic lighting within creates the feeling of awe and wonder, while moving the visitors from past to present in a short span of time.
The trip only takes about 30 seconds so feel free to ride multiple times. You might want to pop off every once in a while to see the exhibits, covering 125 years of motoring landmarks, and to see the inspiration behind the elevators’ uber-modern look. [link1, link2, map]
10. Asansör, Turkey
Asansör (Turkish for “elevator”) is a historical building in İzmir’s Karataş quarter, within the boundaries of the metropolitan district of Konak.
It was built in 1907 as a work of public service by a wealthy Jewish banker and trader of that period, Nesim Levi Bayraklıoğlu, in order to ease passage from the narrow coastline of Karataş to the hillside, the elevator within the building serving to carry people and goods through the steep cliff between the two parts of the quarter.
11. Oregon City Municipal Elevator, USA
The Oregon City Municipal Elevator is a 130-foot (40 m) elevator which connects two neighborhoods in Oregon City in the U.S. state of Oregon. It is the only outdoor municipal elevator in the US and one of only four in the world. The upper portion contains an observation deck which accounts for its flying saucer appearance.
The elevator has an operator. It is open 6:45 AM to 7 PM, Monday through Saturday; 11 AM to 7 PM Sunday Pacific Time. There is no charge to use the elevator. It was carrying an average of 500 people per day as of 1989, and by 2008 this had grown to nearly 800. Ridership is as high as 1,300 people per day during the city’s summer tourist season. [link,map]