Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat
Master's Thesis Challenge: Designing for Innovation
The Rope-less Non-vertical Elevator!

Throughout the history of skyscrapers, the elevator has always been a primary influence in their design; yet, it has remained largely unchanged since its inception: a cabin, pulled by a rope under tension, traveling vertically in an enclosed shaft. This transport system allows occupants to easily reach all of the floors of a building, but has also enabled towers to become isolated entities, unable to establish relationships with their urban surroundings or other buildings.

However, new developments, such as the Linked Hybrid, SkyVille @ Duxton, and The Interlace, suggest a trend towards a complex and dynamic building type that is more connected to the surrounding environment. These are not simply pedestrian walkways between two structures, but are spaces for living and interacting. That said, these promising examples are still limited by the elevator, which is only capable of moving within dedicated vertical shafts.
The Interlace, Singapore
Would a dramatic evolution in internal transportation systems change the underlying formula for the skyscraper?

Soon, a completely new elevator system will be introduced to the market. This system will use linear induction motors, allowing cabins to move not only vertically, but also horizontally and diagonally. This will have a significant effect on the design of tall buildings, and their ability to connect
to the surrounding urban environment in new and creative ways.

Objective / Method:
This Master’s Thesis Challenge will provide Master’s-level architecture students the opportunity to study and develop design possibilities unlocked by the application of this new elevator system, allowing students to design more complex, connected, and dynamic configurations for tall buildings, as dictated by the demands of modern society.

CTBUH is looking for groups of students to work on this topic as their Master’s thesis project, with the guidance of a local professor and the CTBUH Research team. To validate the quality and feasibility of the student projects, an
interdisciplinary team of experts will support and guide the students through a series of discussions and critiques, both in person and remotely.

Upon completion of this program, the most successful project will be selected by the international group of experts and the CTBUH Research team. The success of the project will be determined by the level of detail, feasibility, and ability to take advantage of this innovative internal transportation system. The students with the best entry will be awarded a total of $4,000: a $2,000 cash prize and $2,000 to be used for travel, accommodation, and registration for presenting the design at an international CTBUH event, where the project will be presented. This exposure will provide an outlet for students to inspire professionals in the tall building industry with the design possibilities of a rope-less elevator system.

This call for submissions is intended for all Master’s-level architecture students planning to present their Master’s thesis in Spring/Summer 2018. For this program to be recognized (from an academic perspective), each student / group of students must be guided by a professor at the university that the student(s) are attending, to serve as the main institutional point-of-contact for all communications, activities, and interactions with the university. The organizer of the program, the CTBUH research team, will be the main point-of-contact during all phases of the project and will facilitate all communications with the international group of experts.

If you are interested in this opportunity, please send an email to the CTBUH Research Office ( Please provide information on all team members (name, surname, email address, university) and the name of the professor. Also, provide a letter of support from the professor who will assist the student (or team) in this program.

After the “declaration of interest” deadline, the CTBUH Research team will schedule video conference interviews with each student / group of students. Please, make sure that the professor will also be present at this interview. It will be a brief, preliminary discussion about the details of the program and will serve as an introduction between the students and the CTBUH Research team.

To ensure the quality of the program, only a limited number of applications and support letters will be accepted.

Key Dates
•    Declaration of interest deadline: September 15, 2017
•    Project delivery: May 30, 2018

People Involved:
CTBUH Research Team:
Dr. Dario Trabucco, CTBUH Research Manager; Iuav University of Venice (
Dr. Antony Wood, CTBUH Executive Director; Illinois Institute of Technology; Tongji University
Martina Belmonte, CTBUH Research Assistant; Iuav University of Venice
Dr. Peng Du, CTBUH China Office Director & Academic Coordinator; Illinois Institute of Technology

The following list of professionals represents the International Tutor Panel, which will offer their expertise and support to the participating students through a series of discussions and critiques:

Peter Weismantle, Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill Architecture LLP, Chicago
Stefano Boeri, Stefano Boeri Architetti, Milan
Tony Sharp, D2E International VT Consultants Ltd, London
Don Davies and Rob Chmielowski, Magnusson Klemencic Associates, Seattle
Richard Peters, Peters Research Ltd., London
Mark Sarkisian, Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, San Francisco
Dennis Poon, Thornton Tomasetti, New York City
thyssenKrupp MULTI Team, Germany
More experts to be announced shortly…

For any inquiries, please contact the CTBUH Research Office (