To change floors in a building you've got staircases, escalators, elevators and, in some magical parts of the world, paternosters. That's pretty much it. But an international design collective known as the Rombout Frieling Lab has designed an entirely new method of going up or down. They call it Vertical Walking:
While this seems unlikely, they claim that by "Exploiting the potential of the human body and materials, less than 10% of the effort is required [to use this system] compared to taking stairs." To prove its efficacy, they put together this side-by-side video of a man with a prosthetic hip and knee using both systems:
The price of urban land is skyrocketing. And another 3 billion people are expected to live in cities: we will be forced to exploit vertical space: More and taller towers, the use of attics and roofs: we need to get up high.
Yet, our populations are aging and staircases become major bottlenecks, while being unattractive at greater heights for all. Lifts are rarely a good alternative as they rely on significant external power, they deprive us from daily exercise and are expensive and intrusive to install.
…No external energy is needed [for this system]. This prototype has been successfully tested by a wide range of users, including MS-suffering Angelica, Nigerian amputee Abiodun as well as young office tower workers who found it 'incredibly cool'.
While they've apparently got the mechanics figured out, it does raise all sorts of interesting design questions. Ought it be enclosed? If so, what can be done to prevent claustrophobia during use? And from a UX standpoint, would there be markings within the shaft for the user to have a sense of progress?
In structures housing multiple people, how would bottlenecks be avoided? How many units need to be installed?
Is there a mechanism to send it up or down autonomously, or does the unit always remain where the last user left it?
How will one carry things—packages, a glass of water, a load of laundry—up and down?
I for one hope they pursue the project, as I'm curious to see how these questions and more are answered. And apparently they will pursue it: "It is [our] ambition," they write, "to develop this experimental prototype into solutions that can help…all of us, to move harmoniously through our vertical habitats of the future."
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