With the idea of a river in mind, architect Gitte Vistnes developed the concept of a new way of moving commuters under ground
She’s lived in Costa Rica, graduated as an architect in Denmark, has a Mexican boyfriend and was born in Norway. The idea that her background could be the root of her huge interest in the comfortability of travellers and commuters is quite obvious, though she never really thought that much about it herself.
”She” is architect Gitte Vistnes of the Aarhus School of Architecture in Denmark. She recently developed a theoretical project about commuters using London Underground. She had two key reasons for developing this type of project:
1) Her interest to ease the time commuters spend travelling, which can be up to two hours daily in London Underground.
2) She was inspired by Professor of Neurology Vittorio Gallese, the architects Sarah Robinson and Juhani Pallasmaa, who among eleven others wrote the book Mind in Architecture from the MIT Press. This book discusses how architecture can have an important, positive influence on human behaviour.
As she dived into the Bank and Monument London Underground station, she realised that the option of selecting only a smaller area of the station was necessary in order to handle the complexity of moving people around. The choice fell upon the rolling staircases. Being the stiffest of the elements in the underground and at the same time that part of the system in contact with the most people, the staircases were a natural but challenging choice.
“For those not in daily contact with the London Underground, it is one the oldest underground railway systems in Europe. It is also one of the least modified, least renovated and least adapted to the present usage of commuters”, explains Gitte Vistnes.
“I wanted to enhance the feeling of moving around easily, by transforming the existing towards very contemporary and yet with a natural and timeless grip. This is why I came up with the idea of a parallel to a flood or a river: the water runs effortlessly and finds it own way through specific area”.
She used algorithms and calculations of how water runs in different rivers in order to convert this kind of flow into a new type of flexible staircase.
Looking at the sketches, the illustrations and the models of the staircases, it almost seems like a Harry Potter universe of moving steps, which makes it possible for the traveller to easily change direction and level. Even though the project is theoretical, the moving staircase, however, is not.
During her work, Gitte Vistnes came upon Jack Levy an American engineer who has actually invented a system of flexible, moving staircases called Levytator that can be shaped in different directions.
“I truly believe that the spaces we move through have a great impact on our well-being and welfare in society, which is why I also have a hope that architecture in the future will take on that responsibility of working with the mind”.