Escalators

Today, escalators are used wherever a large number of people have to be moved at one time - shopping precincts, underground stations etc. In theatres they are particularly useful because before the performance they can be directed up to the auditorium and at the end they can take the audience down to street level.

Interesting Lift And Staircase Cores

Figure 11.2a Core planning: Lift lobbies

Interesting Lift And Staircase Cores
Figure 11.2b Lift core planning, flexibility in planning office space

Lifts take too long when a large number of people have to be moved at one time, as witnessed at the National Theatre. Stairs are disliked, particularly by the disabled, or as we become more and more lazy or elderly, and add to the difficulty of walking in unsuitable shoes when dressed up to go to the theatre.

One of the earliest large-scale applications were those installed by Otis for the Bakerloo and Piccadilly lines in the early 1900s. The familiar wood panelled designs with slatted wooden treads have only recently been removed following the terrible fire at Kings Cross. The original 'moving stairs' were the pride and joy of Frank Pick, the innovative manager of London Transport from 1907 onwards,3 but the continual oiling and accumulation of dirt, together with drying out of the timber, made them a fire hazard. The pattern was copied in pre-war Moscow but the speeds increased from 0.75 to 1 m per second.

The early applications were in department stores, although the public were wary of the new invention even when geared down to 0.5 m per second. Otis were obliged to engage a wooden-legged naval officer in uniform to go up and down the newly installed escalators of Gimbel's store in Philadelphia, circa 1901. Those same 'moving stairs' had been demonstrated in the Paris Exhibition the previous year. The wooden-legged officer did further service as escalator attendant when installations were made in Paris, New York and finally London, at Harrods' store. Alternative moving stair designs were developed as 'corkscrew' forms, that were apparently installed at Holloway Road Station on the Piccadilly line but removed due to continuous break down.

The 1930s Harrods escalators elevated the new concept of moving stairs to an artistic form. Working models (Figure 11.3 a) were made to show the Board the dramatic idea of the new escalator hall serving all floors of the department store. The finishes in polished brass provided a light reflective surface for both day and evening enjoyment, the 'portal wall' which led to the shopping floors having varied decor identifying the levels (Figure 11.3 b). Regrettably the whole interior has been ripped out.

Reversible escalators were made for the underground and have a useful role in conference facilities or theatres where reverse flow is needed for intervals or at the end of a performance. A significant example is the London Theatre (mid-1960s) by Sean Kenny. Jeremy Dixon's first design for the London Opera House extension showed a grand sweeping staircase to rival the Garnier Paris Opera, but in the scheme built in 1999 a more practical escalator rises through the grand Floral Hall.

The acceptance of escalators as a normal conveyance has made immeasurable changes to the way building entries are laid out. The nineteenth-century idea of the spacious ground floor radiating towards grand stairs leading aloft is replaced by a multi-level vestibule. In these spaces the prime area may be below or at first floor enabling secondary and service functions to be tucked away. The elevation to first or second floor is a common solution in commercial designs, for example hotels and offices, where the ground floor may have premium value for retailing as well as finding space for vehicle ramps and for the 'porte cochere'. The ideas can be traced to pre-war designs: a truly seminal example is the first floor

Figure 11.3a Escalator design: Concept model for Harrods' escalators, late 1930s (courtesy of Mr M. Al Fayed, Chairman of Harrods Ltd)

banking hall reached by escalators in the Philadelphia Savings Fund Building by George Howe and William Lescaze of 1932. In London, Howard B. Crane built a grander version at Berkeley House in 1937-8, now modernized but not improved.

Two current Chicago solutions are illustrated which celebrate escalators to the virtual exclusion of lifts and stairs as the first impression upon entry. A splendid example is Water Tower Place (refer back to Figures 3.19a and 3.19b). This hotel and shopping mall atrium is entered at first floor via a special sequence, filled with a cascade of planters and water placed between metallic escalators (Figure 11.3c). The office towers of 311 South Waker Drive have a complex podium at second floor level

Figure 11.3b Interior of escalator hall, Harrods, finished in polished brass, Architect: Louis D. Blanc (courtesy of Mr M. Al Fayed, Chairman of Harrods Ltd)

approached by escalator halls of Cecil B De Mille proportions. These in turn embrace a horseshoe run of food outlets and shops, together with a sunken conservatory (Figure 11.3d). All these elements effectively suppress the working core of lifts and service stairs which serve 50 or more storeys of offices above the podium to a lobby space of no significance.

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