willy wonka elevators could create multi-level 'hanging cities' in the future

willy wonka elevators could create multi-level 'hanging cities' in the future

danish architecture studio squareone shares the world’s first vision of a multi-storied city based on a four-way elevator system. ‘hanging cities’ consists of multiple, interconnected towers which are linked at various levels by a transport loop known as MULTI, which was first introduced in 2014.

four-way elevator system willy wonka elevators could create multi-level 'hanging cities' in the future

all images courtesy of squareone unless stated otherwise



tipped as the world’s first willy wonka lift, MULTI is reminiscent of the floating glass elevator in the 1971 film adaptation of the roald dahl classic. based on magnetic levitation technology multiple cabins can move up, down and sideways allowing people to move comfortable and quickly between their destinations.



‘hanging cities’ follows the inevitable trend of urban densification to the only available direction – upwards. it essentially ‘hacks’ the connection between buildings at a higher level, enabling rapid horizontal circulation, but instead of just creating a new shortcut, squareone envisions these connections offering new opportunities for public space.



we are proposing a three-dimensional mega-grid that combines towers and multi-story horizontal sector into a 24h hour urban hub for live, work and play,’ explains kostas poulopoulos, partner and design director at squareone.to achieve this, we bet on the creation of a second urban level so massive, it will elevate entire social and public functions ‘up in the air’, in a way that a limited tower floor area would never be able to.

four-way elevator system willy wonka elevators could create multi-level 'hanging cities' in the future

image courtesy of thyseengroup


the connections offer much more than skybridges. they are multi-level, mall-sized urban realms. basically, it is an idea of how one could maximize the potential of building high. right now, the way that we build tall buildings limits circulation in terms of vertical transportation, speed, and capacity.’


squareone believes the introduction of a new urban sector like this could have a positive effect on city infrastructure, both socially and economically. connecting various mid-tower floors would add value to otherwise undesirable rentable spaces by creating a social hub that would make the area twice as interesting and twice as busy. 

four-way elevator system willy wonka elevators could create multi-level 'hanging cities' in the future



these levels would function in a similar way to a classic street, creating new opportunities for retail, workplaces, educational spaces, and even gardens. moreover, the rooftops of these horizontal sectors could serve as much needed space to accomodate other developing technologies like drone delivery or flying taxis.



in business districts where high-rise towers are common and aplenty, a transport network that functions above ground level would leave the ground floor relatively untouched for cultivation and other leisure experiences. squareone also notes that in areas of rapid urbanization such as asia and africa, the addition of high-rise vertical volumes could offer shade from generally warm and arid climates.

willy wonka elevators could create multi-level 'hanging cities' in the future



cities today are challenged at a level of offering density while managing good living standards,’ poulopoulos says of the problems inherent in city development today.there are a lot of challenges: housing is scarce and expensive. development of new housing is not at the rate our cities grow. transport times are growing. and in many cases, growth is happening without regulatory lines, without care for the environment and with little discussion for quality of life. markets control urban growth, and this is not always for the benefit of the cities and their citizens.’



we believe that transportation is key here, and with multi we found an instant way forward – not a technology 20 years from now, but a technology of today. I think that sooner or later, a ubiquitous transportation cabin will run the streets, the tube, the elevator shafts and move more or less freely in and out of buildings. multi is the first step to this direction.

four-way elevator system willy wonka elevators could create multi-level 'hanging cities' in the future



together with german elevator specialist thyssenkrupp, squareone is currently developing the hanging cities concept and looking into future opportunities to test this vision 1:1.


project info


studio: squareone

project name: hanging cities

status: concept


    have something to add? share your thoughts in our comments section below.
    all comments are reviewed for the purposes of moderation before publishing.

    comments policy
    LOG IN
    designboom's comment policy guidelines
    generally speaking, if we publish something, it's because we're genuinely interested in the subject. we hope you'll share this interest and if you know even more about it, please share! our goal in the discussion threads is to have good conversation and we prefer constructive opinions. we and our readers have fun with entertaining ones. designboom welcomes alerts about typos, incorrect names, and the like.
    the correction is at the discretion of the post editor and may not happen immediately.

    what if you disagree with what we or another commenter has to say?
    let's hear it! but please understand that offensive, inappropriate, or just plain annoying comments may be deleted or shortened.

    - please do not make racist, sexist, anti-semitic, homophobic or otherwise offensive comments.
    - please don't personally insult the writers or your fellow commenters.
    - please avoid using offensive words, replacing a few letters with asterisks is not a valid workaround.
    - please don't include your website or e-mail address in your comments for the purpose of self-promotion.
    - please respect jury verdicts and do not discuss offensively on the competition results
    (there is only one fist prize, and designboom usually asks renown professionals to help us to promote talent.
    in addition to the awarded designs, we do feel that almost all deserve our attention, that is why we publish
    the best 100-200 entries too.)

    a link is allowed in comments as long as they add value in the form of information, images, humor, etc. (links to the front page of your personal blog or website are not okay). unwelcome links (to commercial products or services of others, offensive material etc. ) will be redacted. and, ... yes, spam gets banned. no, we do not post fake comments.


    a diverse digital database that acts as a valuable guide in gaining insight and information about a product directly from the manufacturer, and serves as a rich reference point in developing a project or scheme.

    architecture news

    keep up with our daily and weekly stories
    504,203 subscribers
    - see sample
    - see sample
    designboom magazine