Not Your Average Lift: Check out these ultra-strange elevators

Ah, the life of an elevator. You go up, you come down, you “ding” a little, and you put the whole parade on repeat. People love you because you get them where they need to go, but are you really satisfied with the way things turned out?

Well, elevators aren’t smart enough — yet — to ponder existential questions about their purpose in the universe. But were mechanical elevators a sentient species, there would be more than a few with very complex issues to think through.

Case in point: These ultra-strange elevators that do a whole lot more than ferry office drones or condo-dwellers from one floor to the next.


That’s German for “AquaDome,” apparently. Tucked into a trendy Radisson Blu hotel in central Berlin, AquaDom is an 80-plus-foot elevator encased in a 260,000 gallon aquarium tank. If that’s not mind-bending enough, there are actual fish in the aquarium. Popular Mechanics has all the watery details on this stunning piece of modern engineering. No word on how much the elevator cost, but we venture to guess a lot of elevator buffs are about to figure out how much plane tickets to Berlin will set them back.

Anderton Boat Lift

Boat lifts were once vital to the functioning of the small canals that dotted the hilly British landscape. Back before the advent of reliable, easily controlled hydraulic technology that could raise or lower boats in locks, these boat elevators literally lifted boats out of the water at one end of a canal and deposited it in the “next” (higher or lower) canal, obviating the need for a lock. Anderton Boat Lift is one of the finest and best-preserved examples of a boat lift.

Luxor Hotel Elevators

Las Vegas’s Luxor hotel is immediately recognizable on the city’s skyline: “It’s the pyramid one, mom!” Turns out pyramid-shaped hotels need diagonal elevators; Luxor’s follow a shaft set at a 39-degree angle. Talk about a dizzying ride.

Gateway Arch Tram

Same idea, different application. St. Louis’s Gateway Arch is basically a hollow half-circle with an observation deck at its highest point. To get there, visitors need to ride a tram that follows the curve of the arch — starting at a nearly vertical angle, then leveling off as the vehicle nears the top.

The Mitsubishi Bullet Elevator

Who’d be crazy enough to design an elevator shaped like a bullet? The mad scientists at Japan’s Mitsubishi Corporation, that’s who. Mitsubishi’s brand-new bullet elevator, complete with a tapered tip and aerodynamic skin, is slated for installation soon in a supertall Shanghai skyscraper.

It Gets Weirder

These are just a few of the many “alternative” elevator types that make the world go ‘round. Believe it or not, brilliant people at major universities and corporations are hard at work designing even stranger elevators, or at least technological components that may one day make extant elevators just that much weirder. On balance, this is a great thing for society. And it’s definitely less boring than your daily elevator journey.