Cable-less elevators

December 29, 2014, 1:19 PM UTC
Illustration by Will Scobie for Fortune

Here’s an elevator pitch: What if we could rethink the way we travel between floors of a building? ThyssenKrupp bills its Multi concept as the most radical industry shift since elevators’ debut in 1854. Instead of cables, magnetic levitation technology helps shuttle people from place to place, allowing for multiple carriages in the same shaft and the ability for carriages to move horizontally, not just vertically. Patrick Bass, the new CEO of ThyssenKrupp North America, says Multi allows for elevator banks with a smaller footprint—no more lobbies with dozens of doors—shorter wait times, and lower energy consumption. A 60-story pilot building will debut on the company’s research campus in 2016. “I want to be an enabler for the building industry,” Bass says. Will the industry go for it? “Absolutely,” says Daniel Libeskind, the architect behind the master plan for New York’s new World Trade Center. (His favorite elevator? The one inside the curvature of the St. Louis Arch.) “This new elevator isn’t mere whimsy. It is progress. Architects have always been doing this—drawing glass buildings before that technology was possible, or creating the Eiffel Tower, which was more of an experiment than a building. We can free ourselves from the shackles of habit. It’s not just a different design or a different aesthetic, but a different philosophy.”

This story is from the January 2015 issue of Fortune.

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