12 nov 10 | The Hindu

Standing Tall

by Neeti Sarkar

Designer of many famous edifices across the world, Gordon Gill speaks of the action behind the scenes.

We're at the threshold of a whole new decade of the 21st century and it seems virtually impossible to imagine a world without cell phones. And people who can't live without their daily ration of achaar with curd rice must be ever grateful that ideas of food preservation were conjured up by experts.

There are more than a zillion ideas that changed the world and BBC World News has launched a six part series of the same name. The show evaluates subjects and sciences that have served the growth and development of human civilization as we know it today - Architecture, Food, Medicine, Aviation, Economy and Communications. One of the specialists on the "Ideas that Changed the World" is renowned Canadian-American architect Gordon Gill (designer of Pearl River Tower, Masdar City Headquarters Building, etc) who in a telephonic interview says: "The fact that a news channel of international repute has put together a show that veers off what one would normally expect is in itself a phenomenal idea that's changed the way in which we treat news and for someone like me who's never done anything of this sort before, it's a huge honour."

Gordon, who will be examining the importance of the elevator divulges that he had to do his homework before the show. "I did go back and check on the stuff I was going to say because people will believe every word they hear but thankfully my research didn't take up much of my time," he laughs.

Delving into the history of elevators, Gill says: "The invention of the elevator has transformed the way in which we perceive, design, and use buildings. The elevator, similar to the type we use today, was invented in 1853. A few years later, lighting in elevators and the vertical transport system were given much refinement. And it was in 1882 when the hydraulic technology was first applied in the manufacturing of elevators."

Ask him what the most commonly made mistakes are when it comes to using the elevator and Gill says, "Most people fail to fully understand the technology that's been used to design the elevator. That's where the problem really begins. Many don't pay heed to the maximum capacity of an elevator and sometimes fail to appreciate the efficient organisation of the system. It's really annoying when people are all confused about how to use a lift, which button to punch and how to exit it."

And what would he liken a skyscraper without an elevator to? "Climbing Mount Everest," Gordon chuckles. "It sure is an arduous task even walking down the stair wall so one can just imagine what it takes to reach the top!"

The other architectural ideas that Gordon thinks have changed the world are "the invention of the air conditioning system where man can control his environment and the production of concrete as a construction material."