Book Reviews

Book Review: Lifted


The author, Andreas Bernard, is the editor of the Suddeutsche Zeitung, Germany’s largest daily newspaper published in Munich, Bavaria, and is a visiting professor of cultural studies at Leuphena University of Lunenburg. In this historical book he explains in detail, based on a great deal of research, how residential elevators helped increase cities, and in particular downtowns of big cities, population densities.

The book also deals with psychological and social issues and how elevators evolved in Europe and the U.S.A.

Initially, elevators were used on construction sites to move heavy materials up and down, but in 1854 the E G Otis Elevator Company was credited for the passenger elevator that demonstrated at the Crystal Palace in New York City safety mechanisms built in and which would prevent accidents, injury or death.

Since then, elevator design and technology changed greatly. In the U.S.A elevators have always been regarded as machines that helped people to move up and down readily, and effortlessly in utilitarian cabinets, whereas in Europe, elevators were designed as “objects d’art” with fancy cabinets in ornamental shafts. Most were operated by “trained” operators as automation, at first was elementary, and needed people to regulate landings.

Elevators landings in most European office buildings are stately affairs. In North America they are simple installations without any design element or enhancement.

Elevator technology helps greatly in mines and workers can work at depths previously thought impossible.

It is important to note that elevator in Europe are much smaller than those in North America, and also less automated, especially in public buildings, villages and small city hotels.

Before elevators become popular, cities were “flat”. Buildings featured three or at most four stories for ease in accessing apartments.

North Americans famously like more space among themselves in elevators; this has contributed to design differences between Europe and the U.S.A. Europeans accept being close to one another more readily!

The pictures in this unique book, and chapters on psychological and social issues make it a valuable contribution to how inventions change landscapes, mentalities, even industrial evolution and output!

Highly recommend for people interested in history, architecture, and the impact of the Industrial Revolution!

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