chapter  6
28 Pages

Vertical Mobilities

Confronting the Politics of Elevators in Tall Buildings and Ultra-Deep Mining
ByStephen Graham

Entire libraries can be filled with volumes exploring the cultures, politics, and geographies of the largely horizontal mobilities and transportation infrastructures that are intrinsic to urban modernity (highways, railways, subways, public transit, and so on). And yet the recent ‘mobilities turn’ has almost completely neglected the cultural geographies and politics of vertical transportation within and between the buildings of vertically structured cityscapes. Attempting to rectify this neglect, this chapter seeks, first, to bring elevator travel centrally into discussions about the cultural politics of urban space and, second, to connect elevator urbanism to the even more neglected worlds of elevator-based descent in ultra-deep mining. The chapter addresses, in turn: the historical emergence of elevator urbanism; the cultural significance of the elevator as spectacle; the global ‘race’ in elevator speed; shifts towards the ‘splintering’ of elevator experiences; experiments with new mobility systems which blend elevators and automobiles; problems of vertical abandonment; and, finally, the neglected vertical politics of elevator-based ‘ultra-deep’ mining.