Lifted: A Cultural History of the Elevator

Lifted: A Cultural History of the Elevator

by Andreas Bernard
     
 

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Before skyscrapers forever transformed the landscape of the modern metropolis, the conveyance that made them possible had to be created. Invented in New York in the 1850s, the elevator became an urban fact of life on both sides of the Atlantic by the early twentieth century. While it may at first glance seem a modest innovation, it had wide-ranging effects, from

Overview

Before skyscrapers forever transformed the landscape of the modern metropolis, the conveyance that made them possible had to be created. Invented in New York in the 1850s, the elevator became an urban fact of life on both sides of the Atlantic by the early twentieth century. While it may at first glance seem a modest innovation, it had wide-ranging effects, from fundamentally restructuring building design to reinforcing social class hierarchies by moving luxury apartments to upper levels, previously the domain of the lower classes. The cramped elevator cabin itself served as a reflection of life in modern growing cities, as a space of simultaneous intimacy and anonymity, constantly in motion.  In this elegant and fascinating book, Andreas Bernard explores how the appearance of this new element changed notions of verticality and urban space. Transforming such landmarks as the Waldorf-Astoria and Ritz Tower in New York, he traces how the elevator quickly took hold in large American cities while gaining much slower acceptance in European cities like Paris and Berlin. Combining technological and architectural history with the literary and cinematic, Bernard opens up new ways of looking at the elevator--as a secular confessional when stalled between floors or as a recurring space in which couples fall in love. Rising upwards through modernity, Lifted takes the reader on a compelling ride through the history of the elevator. 

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“The elevator, which today seems so boring, was once a vehicle of change of compelling power. Whoever reads this book will view the world’s elevators with different eyes.”-Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung

"Lifted is a spaciously researched and thought-out popular history. It can be read with pleasure by anyone who has wondered how residential buildings got to be so tall. Andreas Bernard doesn’t provide any tips about elevator etiquette. But his imaginative book contains just about everything else most people might want to know about elevators and the ways they have shaped the contemporary city."-John Bentley Mays,The Globe and Mail

"For most of us, the innocuous topic of the elevator is hardly the stuff of cutting-edge historical theory. But in this translation by Dollenmayer (German language & literature, Worcester Polytechnic Inst.), Bernard's groundbreaking 2011 German treatise on the revolutionary transformation of a mundane engineering marvel compels readers to reimagine what they think they know about the modern urban landscape. From Elisha Graves Otis's 1854 demonstration at the Exhibition of the Industry of All Nations in New York City to the modern day, Bernard (editor, Süddeutsche Zeitung) scans the literature, philosophy, and history related to the technological innovation and presents a lucid, engaging analysis of just how Otis's elevator has gone from its original 'luster of strangeness' to the 'dull and inconspicuous.' In the process, Bernard reminds us of Georges Canguilhem's dictum that the 'history of science is not a retrospective history of progress nor the depiction of outmoded stages leading to today's truth.' VERDICT Bernard's fascinating work on technological innovation, while at times a bit esoteric, will find a ready audience among readers with a passion for innovative philosophical and cultural histories. Fans of Wolfgang Schivelbusch's The Railway Journey may especially find it appealing."-Library Journal,Brian Odom, Birmingham, AL Library

Library Journal
03/15/2014
For most of us, the innocuous topic of the elevator is hardly the stuff of cutting-edge historical theory. But in this translation by Dollenmayer (German language & literature, Worcester Polytechnic Inst.), Bernard's groundbreaking 2011 German treatise on the revolutionary transformation of a mundane engineering marvel compels readers to reimagine what they think they know about the modern urban landscape. From Elisha Graves Otis's 1854 demonstration at the Exhibition of the Industry of All Nations in New York City to the modern day, Bernard (editor, Süddeutsche Zeitung) scans the literature, philosophy, and history related to the technological innovation and presents a lucid, engaging analysis of just how Otis's elevator has gone from its original "luster of strangeness" to the "dull and inconspicuous." In the process, Bernard reminds us of Georges Canguilhem's dictum that the "history of science is not a retrospective history of progress nor the depiction of outmoded stages leading to today's truth." VERDICT Bernard's fascinating work on technological innovation, while at times a bit esoteric, will find a ready audience among readers with a passion for innovative philosophical and cultural histories. Fans of Wolfgang Schivelbusch's The Railway Journey may especially find it appealing.—Brian Odom, Birmingham, AL

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781479873487
Publisher:
New York University Press
Publication date:
02/14/2014
Sold by:
Barnes & Noble
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
309
File size:
6 MB

Meet the Author

Andreas Bernard is editor of Süddeutsche Zeitung, Germany’s largest daily newspaper. He received his Ph.D. in Cultural Sciences from the Bauhaus University Weimar, and teaches cultural studies in Berlin and Lucerne, Switzerland.

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