“Pushing all the core and vertical elements to the perimeter presented a whole series of different challenges, key to which was delivering a set of elevators that were as clean, transparent and visually permeable as possible,” says Jones. “The all-glass scenic KONE elevators are an integral part of the experience, enabling people to see into and out of the building much more fluidly than you can through a typical elevator shaft.”
In 2013, KONE was awarded the contracts to design, develop, deliver and maintain all the elevators for the building, including the 18 unique, scenic lifts. This became one of the most ambitious projects ever undertaken by the company.
The design challenge from Foster + Partners was for the elevator cars to be constructed entirely from glass, with no essential equipment visible from the outside or the inside. Other solutions included the building’s firefighting and goods delivery elevators as well as an elevator taking visitors to the Temple of Mithras.
“The most unusual part of this job was related to the design of the 32-person elevators themselves, where we have what is known as an unbalanced ‘rucksack arrangement’. Here –against all the principles of statically balanced cars required to meet ride comfort criteria – the elevator car is hoisted solely by a sling attached to the rear of the 6,000 kg car!” says KONE Senior Project Manager Chris Edwards.
Thanks to extensive testing and product development, including the construction of a three-stop life-sized prototype, the special arrangement offers an incredibly smooth ride while hiding all of the necessary technology under the floor of the elevator car. This allows an unobscured view through the entire glass elevator bank.
“All the door gears, air conditioning and Wi-Fi needed to be underneath the car, whereas they would normally be on top,” says Edwards, adding that only a handful of standard elevator features could be used.
“These types of lifts had never been engineered before in the history of lift manufacturing. They were a complete innovation,” says Bloomberg’s Mallon. “The ride is fantastic. The way it makes you feel like you’re floating on air, it comes to such a soft landing at every floor plate, it’s quiet, you don’t hear a thing. It’s a really, really unique experience. I wish everyone in London could ride these lifts.”