United Nations North Tower

The Typology of the Skyscraper Reconsidered: Integration of
Elevator Rails and Structure

Advanced Studio 5 . Fall 99
Critics Reiser + Umemoto
Project Partner Megumi Tamanaha

…while the high-rise has been understood as a seemingly monolithic building type, it is in fact a vertical nexus of systems and material flows. this view combines with the use of dynamical models for material and spatial organization makes possible a renewed exploration of the relations between the various and disparate elements constituting the high-rise typology.

The skyscraper typology has been understood to be a homogeneous and repetitive structural and organizational frame which in the most successful examples shifts according to modulations in the building’s economy. We would take up this ethic of responsiveness but follow a fundamentally different course: instead of attuning the given to a local difference, we will assume conversely that the system itself could have the capacity to differentiate while maintaining a complex integrity… (excerpt from studio brief)

One-to-one relationship of core to floor plate is questioned.

“1909 theorem: the skyscraper as Utopian device for the production of unlimited numbers of virgin sites on a single metropolitan location.” from Delirious New York


In the ‘Batman’ ride, the rail is a component of the structure.
Two types of elevator technology: traction and hydraulic

Multiple elevator cabs could share one shaft for efficiency
Double-decker elevator cabs. one serves odd floors the other even.
Diagonal elevators, traction type


Diagrams of elevator routes. Major and Minor Elevator Rails zone the building into public and secured areas; Transfer: Connects the terminus of two routes, Loop: Connects two major routes, Off-ramp. A tributary of a major route that ends at its terminus.
A pocket in the route for service and security; Different occupant zones overlap, serviced by same route.

Mosler Telelift package delievery system borrowed and reinterpreted.
the circulation system is designed before building structure. limitations of the single-core model is challenged by connecting multiple cores, creating a field condition.


United Nations, New York City
Located between FDR Drive, a major artery along East River, and 1st Avenue.
Passenger Elevators: Express, stopping at major nodes, and Local, stopping on all floors
Car and Subway Circulation: Entrance to parking from FDR with short term parking close to the theaters. Subway shuttle to satellite airport.
Program: Theaters, recreation, hotel, restaurant, car rental, satellite airport, baggage handling


Elevator rails borrow and modify the rail-road track ‘switch’ technique.

orientation becomes vertical. the grafted steel members both route
elevator cabs and diagonally brace the building.

the layers of elevator rails build up in density to function as structure where needed.

building envelope becomes structural. the steel of the elevator rails and the
corrugated metal membrane together perform structurally.

Circulation and Structure

The elevator organizes program. The static distance between zones is made dynamic by the speed of the elevators.

The elevator connects related programs.

The speed of the transportation system collapses the distance separating program elements. For instance, a
horizontal/vertical transportation system links the hotel rooms scattered around the building periphery to capitalize on views. The sidewalk on 1st Ave is extended via an express elevator to the roof-top public zone
taking advantage of open air and sun.

The elevator disconnects private zones from the public.

The route of the transportation system restricts access. The public circulation route bypasses hotel rooms for the UN delegates which is serviced by a separate elevator.