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Elevators MATTER. @The Whitney Museum

Elevators MATTER. @The Whitney Museum

As designers and artists, we are always seeking the attention and interest of viewers and users. 
What happens then, when you make use of captive time–say time spent in the elevator?

 The floor of one of the elevators from "Six in Four": Etched Steel Panels create the inside of a Wicker basket.

The floor of one of the elevators from "Six in Four": Etched Steel Panels create the inside of a Wicker basket.

Artist Richard Artschwager has designed the insides of four elevators at the new Whitney Museum of American Art, in New York City. The elevators are THE only permanent art in the building, whose galleries opened their doors in 2015. This past weekend, I stepped into the largest of the elevators. The floors were a weave of blue and silvery-gold, a combination of engraved, etched steel panels and painted blue panels. I felt like I was standing inside a gilded, stretched wicker basket.

"Six in Four"–The functioning elevators and their art use familiar motifs like doors, windows, tables, rugs and baskets to create an immersive experience for people riding the elevator. By contorting, shoving and stretching these motifs across the walls, floor and ceiling of the elevators, Artschwager creates one definitive result- a place, an experience.


As designers, we often miss out on opportunities like these to use intermediate spaces to create 'place'. Here, we see that elevators can announce the beginning of a museum experience, can capture one's attention and create a sense of wonder.

 Looking into the large art elevator from the Lobby of the Whitney Museum.

Looking into the large art elevator from the Lobby of the Whitney Museum.

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