Alexander Miles, American inventor, patented an electric elevator 11 October 1887
Richard Meier, American architect, birthday 12 October 1934
Paul T. Frankl, Austrian-born furniture designer, painter & architect, birthday 14 October 1886
Although Alexander Miles did not invent the elevator, nor even the electric elevator, the innovation in his 1887 patent improved the overall safety of the contraption that still was not entirely comfortable with the general population. With U.S. Patent #371207, Miles improve the method by which the doors opened and closed so as to protect passengers from falling into the elevator shaft, which was still a real danger at the time. His mechanism automatically closed access to the shaft when the car was not properly aligned with the desired floor. As buildings climbed higher and higher, this advancement helped the public adapt to the ever-growing cityscape. Imagine falling from the top floor of the Burj Khalifa because someone forgot to close the elevator door all the way.
Speaking of the Burj, the legendary firm that designed the tower, S.O.M. has fostered a fair share of burgeoning architects including a brief stent in 1959 by Richard Meier who would become one of the famed New York Five. He would also go on to work under Marcel Breuer, no doubt encouraged by his fascination with the work of Le Corbusier. It has been argued that Meier perfected Corbu’s own theories of architecture more so than the master himself.
Known as the “White Architect”, he espouses that white is in fact the rainbow of all colors in that it reflects the hues of the environment in which it resides. One look at Meier’s Douglas House nestled among the green hillside and you understand his three essential concepts: Light, Color & Place. Meier, like Hejduk, experiments with plain geometry and at the same time allows light & shadow to become part of the comprehension of the total space. It is as if he has fully embraced the fourth dimension, time, to complete the spacial composition. Other buildings by Meier include the Getty Center in Los Angeles, California (1997), the Barcelona Museum of Contemporary Art, Spain (1995) and the controversial Arca Pacis in Rome, Italy (2006) where recently a compromise has been made to reduce the site wall to improve the view to the river.
Inspired by the soaring heights buildings were reaching thanks to the invention of the elevator, Paul Frankl ventured into furniture design which became known as “Skyscraper Furniture”. When he emigrated to New York City in 1914 after studying at the Berlin Polytechnic (as did Alfred Stiglitz), he embraced new materials with his furniture such as cork veneers and metal, shaping what would become known as the American modern aesthetic. After moving to the west coast, Frankl’s work trended more toward biomorphic shapes which were reflective of clothing fashions of the time. Until his death in 1958, Frankl was a vocal proponent of the modern design movement in numerous writings helping to validate these emerging designs into popular culture.