Elegance, Escalated: How Spiral Escalators® form Distinctive Luxury Spaces
28th February, 2020
Shanghai, Kuwait, Las Vegas – homes to some of the world’s finest shopping centers and retail establishments. Each city’s commercial complexes cater to the luxury experience, but a particular fixture in these spaces catches the eye: the spiral-shaped escalator. A step beyond the inorganic quality of typical escalators, these conveyances exhibit sophistication in design while providing a one-of-a-kind spatial experience. Here, we dive into how these escalators raise elegance to new heights.
Architecture as Art
"Form follows function" – So said Louis Sullivan, a masterful architect whose work defined the architecture world in the 20th century. His time saw the advent of iron-frame/steel-beam construction in structures, redefining preconceived notions of architecture at the time – once limited by the confines of then-prominent stone buildings. Within this context, Sullivan’s claim that beauty arises from the pursuit of functionality seems to foretell of a new era in architecture.
Fast-forward to the 21st century and we see architecture continue its evolution in tandem with advancing technology. This can be seen across each step of the construction process; in the blueprint phase, we see three-dimensional data taking precedence over previously-mainstream 2D blueprints – allowing for more complex structures. In the realm of architecture technology, the 3D printer has come into the foray to realize intricate lattice constructions (a lightweight, insulating and highly shock-resistant structure), among others. The culmination of these efforts has manifested in buildings that embody a higher level of sophisticated design and planning.
Birth of the Spiral
Architectural design continues to advance with startling speed, and that goes beyond just building exteriors. Interiors, spatial design, while the sophistication of form and function present in these spaces also provide a glimpse of such growth. These facets reveal just how rich the history of architecture is. And one legacy of that history – innovation – is the escalator.
The escalator first rose to the world stage at the 1900 Paris Exhibition, installed shortly afterward at a symbol of the modern metropolis: the Eiffel Tower. The name "escalator" suggests at its nature – "moving stairs" – and the innovation it represented became the center of discussion within the blink of an eye. The moving steps offered Parisians the experience of walking in mid-air as they ascended the Eiffel Tower.
As is well-known, escalators typically extend in a straight line from down to up or vice-versa. Cube-shaped steps line up into a level surface from the ground at the base of the stairs, and as the steps move forward, each one juts upward or downward to create a staircase – carrying its passengers. Nearing the escalator’s exit, the steps again line up into to a flat, level state before finally vanishing beneath the floor. While escalators guarantee smooth, easy movement between floors, the constraints of their construction previously prevented them from becoming a prominent feature in spatial design.
One invention, however, has overturned such notions – realizing the escalator in an enchanting, elegant spiral. It’s called, simply, the Spiral Escalator®; and in creating this form, Mitsubishi Electric has achieved what nobody has ever done before. Since its unveiling in 1985, no other firm has exhibited the technological prowess needed to rival or match this feat of engineering. The product of elaborate technologies realizable only by the heightened design, manufacturing, and installation know-how of expert engineers, the spiral-shaped escalator has unlocked much of the latent potential in spatial design. Such curved structures allow architects to devise plans more freely – imagining spaces where even the stairs play as the central, prominent fixture. This article showcases three different cases where the Spiral Escalator shines in the real world, both in terms of functionality and design: in Shanghai, Las Vegas, and Kuwait.
Open Space, "Rising Dragon"
First stop is the Shanghai New World Daimaru Department Store, located on East Nanjing Road in Shanghai, China – near The Bund, one of the city’s major streets. The department store’s spatial design places emphasis on three factors – spaciousness, brightness, and transparency – in pursuit of a luxury and entertainment experience for visitors. The two Spiral Escalator modules positioned within the multi-floor open space serve as centerpieces, connecting the center plaza to the building’s roof.
Rising 40 meters in height and spanning from the first to sixth floors in this massive open space, the area’s design renders the escalators as if they are levitating in mid-air. The imagery of the Chinese dragon defines the stairs’ appearance, while the overall aesthetic amalgamates essences of Asian and Western design – harmony with nature and stateliness, respectively – into one. The effects make the escalators function not only as transportation devices but as works of art as well. Rising dragons serve as a symbol of happiness in China, and the two "dragons" in spiraling ascent depicted here serve as auspicious symbols: not only awing visitors but also bestowing gravity to the space.
Affinity with the Ancient
The second site to cover is Las Vegas, home to The Forum Shops – a high-end shopping complex attached to the world-renowned casino and hotel Caesars Palace. The luxury of Ancient Roman design defines its atrium area and enshrined in its center are two Spiral Escalators.
The escalators extend continuously across two different floors and render a massive spiral structure within the shopping center’s open area. Engineers have hidden the escalator’s normally visible support beams, a remarkable engineering feat that renders the stairs as if they are floating in mid-air – much to the pleasure of visiting shoppers. The highly-refined design shows effortless affinity with the glitz and glamor of Las Vegas and its casino-goers from the world over.
Beauty in Symmetry
Our last use-case example homes in on The Avenues, one of Kuwait’s largest shopping malls. Massive in size, its over-800 stores create an out-of-the-ordinary experience; and its vastness means that shoppers need an entire day to see everything inside. Within the immense complex is an area, or "district," known as the Prestige district, home to a concentration of high-end luxury brands. Spiral Escalators take up residence within this space.
Designed within the multi-floor opening found inside, the Spiral Escalator provides visitors and shoppers with a truly memorable experience – instilling in passengers the sense of levitated movement. Architects have arranged the stairs so that the left and right escalators are symmetrical, bestowing the spacious area with an air of sophistication and an aesthetically-pleasing touch. The Avenues functions as the crown jewel of Kuwait’s shopping centers, and the escalator’s visage helps confer the large atrium of the Prestige district with a greater aura of opulence.
The Spiral Escalator came about through an amalgamation of innovation and second-to-none technical prowess. By expanding upon the potential of architectural design, this innovative conveyance have helped escalate spaces of all sorts – from shopping centers and more – to greater sophistication. As its potential continues to grow, so too will this pursuit to embody more structures with enhanced refinement.
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