PLP Architecture has completed a Technical Demonstration project for Tyréns, one of Sweden’s leading structural engineering and urban planning consultancies and their research group responsible for the development of the Advanced Funiculator, an innovative concept that will redefine vertical transportation for ultra-tall buildings.

The project explores the topology of a looped system or a continuous and connected series of pods that snakes over the exterior of a tower exceeding a height of 1000 metres. The structural concept, the Tubed Mega Frame, repositions the main load-bearing columns or MegaFrames to the perimeter of the building, eliminating the requirement for a conventional core, vertical shaft and lifts. Repositioning all of the building loads to the building perimeter beneficially increases the building’s stance and axiomatically increases the building’s efficiency to resist horizontal loads.

The large structural columns, to which the track configuration is attached, allow the funiculator to travel up and down a track designed to have torsion or to follow a pseudo-helical path that whereby relies on the ability of the pods to rotate in two perpendicular directions in order to remain horizontal.

The comparatively simple geometry and exceptional aspect ratio of 14:1 on the more narrow profile of the tower, originates from the plan and its regular 15-metre triangular grid: the name of the tower imparting the height of the uppermost occupied level. To move potentially 30,000+ inhabitants over such large distance (less than 2 minutes to 888m), the track configuration consists of a two-way high-speed track with pods measuring approximately seven metres by five metres stopping at dedicated destinations, and a local track whose travel direction changes in morning and evening rush hours with pods calling at stations on every level (duration 5 minutes). The funiculator emerges from the ground-level embarkation station and travels halfway up the extent of the tower toward a huge orifice or ‘Central Park’ that effectively creates two parallel towers. The tracks surge along the faces of the orifice and pass through the vertically-stacked Mid-Town station to enable passengers to traverse between the towers. The funiculator continues upward to where the building converges and circumnavigates once. Those pods with luxury restaurants may revolve multiple times along the underside of the giant Loop crowning the tower; the loop appreciably larger than the famous Gateway Arch in St Louis, Missouri.

The organisational system facilitates cross-over of passengers at ground level, discretely allocating pods to groups or to passengers wishing to experience only the Loop; joy riders granted one journey that will present a most spectacular ride with an unparalleled extended view. The building, residing directly above a public metro station, will integrate Dynamic Scheduling and location-based apps to take into account visitors and to ‘collect’ passengers travelling on the metro.

The MegaFrames are connected at every sixteenth level by two-storey service and safe-haven floors or MegaFloors, from which suspended floorplates realise exceptionally large column-free and unrivalled uninterrupted space immediately above the next Megafloor. These levels lend themselves to dealing rooms and expansive office landscapes, while the counterpart towers, served by a host of pods ascending and descending to the Mid-Town station, oblige a suite of hotels or residences. The narrow uppermost levels create unsurpassed luxury apartments and entertainment opportunities

Together with our research partner Tyréns and supported by Vinnova the Swedish Governmental Agency for Innovation Systems, we are continuing to establish technologies ranging from mechanical design to dynamic scheduling software to realise this system: the first calculations of the structural performance indicating unusual high stiffness compared to existing high-rise buildings. The project, presented at Elevcon 2014 in Paris, attracted much attention.