Historic freight elevators carry a sense of the wonder in their clunky mechanical gears that is lost in our daily experience of new, light and shiny battery-operated glass elevators. There is a tangible history in the well-worn ruts and gears of a freight elevator that one simply doesn’t find in a lovely stainless steel cab with lit buttons for each floor. There is no music in a freight elevator when the doors close—the only melody is the gears grinding and lurching the box into motion by pulling a lever like a slot machine. There’s magic in that.
During the warehouse renovation, we built around the existing freight elevator shafts. While we would love to use them for their intended purpose, they could not be forced into the modern age’s safety standards that were not yet envisioned in the 1920’s.
The outdated elevator cab in the west warehouse couldn’t be saved, but we made the elevator shaft a centerpiece of the new R&R Partners office. Grating above the shaft uses bars spaced apart to allow light to leak down to the lower level. That grating now serves as a bridge into the R&R Lounge. At the lower level, it’s a bridge to a creative breakout space above a historic hydraulic ram that once pushed the elevator toward the sky.
The freight elevator in the east warehouse is intact, and will be maintained as an artifact. The shaft, gears and cables will be lit for dramatic visual effect. At the upper level, the elevator mechanism is visible in the R&R Partners suite next to the Lounge. At the lower level, the cab is an out-of-the -way seating area for small group collaboration. Our goal was to keep the integrity of what used to be there, a reflection of the building’s 90-year history moving goods and produce. That history will be food for thought as the creative staff at R&R Partners elevates from brainstorming to concept to pitch.
When you visit the warehouse, be sure to spend a few minutes in the east elevator and think about the weight of its history. It’s got an authenticity of place and a material honesty that cannot be made… it has to be worked into the object over time like the ruts on stairs.