Mythical Luxury

The Waldorf-Astoria
A model interior of one of the new residences

Thanks to its outsized footprint, grand design and high profile, the Waldorf-Astoria, a super-opulent lodging/residence in the heart of Manhattan, has always carried a certain mythical quality. Sitting dominantly on NYC’s Park Avenue — a thoroughfare synonymous with high society — the Waldorf-Astoria has truly been a place to “see and be seen.” As a lodging of choice for every sitting U.S. president since Herbert Hoover (with the exception of current Chief Executive Donald Trump), this Art Deco gem is steeped in history. The building closed in 2017 for a US$1-billion renovation, but when it reopens it will offer guest rooms as well as residences for sale (studios starting at US$1.7 million). In a recent post by the Financial Times, architecture critic Edwin Heathcote looks back on the storied landmark, sharing tales such as one about a president who was secretly brought into the building — car and all — by an elevator connecting the hotel with a rail track below. If you have the money to make the Waldorf-Astoria part of your personal history, you won’t have too much longer to wait — the renovation is scheduled to be complete in 2021.

Looking Back at a Megaproject


Structural bracing near the portal just north of WMATA’s Grosvenor station; image courtesy of GWU Archives via Greater Greater Washington

Subways and commuter rail systems are important transportation options in most of the large cities in the U.S. They help reduce roadway congestion and the pollution produced by automobiles and, because they are either underground or elevated, they provide quick and efficient travel throughout metro areas. And, as we all know, thanks to the Americans With Disabilities Act, their stations and platforms are equipped with vertical transportation: large-capacity elevators and heavy-duty escalators that keep people on the move. In a nostalgic look back at the genesis of one of the nation’s best-known metro systems, website Greater Greater Washington has posted photographs documenting the construction of the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) Metrorail system serving the Washington, D.C., area, the first segment of which opened in 1976. The digitized photographs were released by the George Washington University (GWU) Archives, and include a rendering of the Wheaton Station escalators, the longest single-span escalators in the Western Hemisphere. If you’re into construction photographs, these will give you a fascinating look behind the scenes at the work involved in creating the nation’s second-busiest metro system.

Cutting Carbon

thyssenkrupp Elevator recently announced its long-term plan to reduce its carbon footprint, an ambitious blueprint that foresees slashing the company’s greenhouse gas emissions by half within 20 years.  The goal is part of its continuing efforts to become a more environmentally friendly industrial business. “Our climate targets are ambitious but, in view of the tasks and challenges facing us in terms of climate protection, they are not exaggerated,” said company CEO Peter Walker. “We see a clear responsibility on the part of the companies and are determined to make our contribution, and it should be sustainable in the long term.” In keeping with scientific criteria that underpin the Paris Climate Agreement, thyssenkrupp hopes to realize a 25% cut in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030. Under the plan, the company would reach the 50% reduction target by 2040. More than half of thyssenkrupp Elevator’s carbon emissions are related to its vehicle fleet, so this is where efforts will be focused. Methods will include optimization and route efficiency planning, as well as the use of hybrid and electric vehicles. Improvements in technician driving efficiency via the VIEW platform will help reduce unnecessary mileage on vehicles. The use of MAX, thyssenkrupp’s real-time, predictive maintenance system, will help determine which parts are needed before traveling to the jobsite.

Warehouse efficiencies will also make a difference.

“thyssenkrupp Elevator’s long-standing commitment to sustainability starts at our own operations with these ambitious carbon targets,” said Paula Casares, head of sustainability. “Our reduction of carbon emissions throughout our full operations will not only help our bottom line, but will also allow us to provide the best answer to our customers while acting in an environmentally responsible way in all phases of our business.”