Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat
Research Investigator Visits Case Study in Genoa

October 2, 2017

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GENOA – On 2 October, Martina Belmonte, CTBUH Research Assistant directly involved in the research “A Study in the Design Possibilities Enabled by Rope-Less, Non-Vertical Elevators”, visited Genoa to investigate an interesting case study, and was kindly accompanied by Giuliano Zannotti, project Manager of Leitner spa.

The reason of the trip was to visit the Ascensore Castello d’Albertis Montegalletto, a unique urban transportation system able to move both horizontally and vertically. The system includes a combination of a conventional, vertical lift with a horizontal funicular that connects two different parts of the cities. In 1929, when the system was opened, there was just the 70-meter vertical path used to connect Via Balbi with Corso Dogali. However, in order for users to reach the cabins from Via Balbi they had to walk through a 300-meter tunnel, as the system was located into a bomb shelter. Despite the discomfort of walking through this tunnel during summer months, the system has been continuously used by the inhabitants thanks to its convenience and the considerably low cost for the journey.

Unfortunately, in the 1960's, the use of the plant gradually diminished, due to some public safety issues and cleanliness. Eventually, in 1995, the system was indefinitely closed after the 30-year technical lifetime expired.

The main entrance in Via Balbi. This is the access point that leads to the beginning of the horizontal path.

In the early 2000s, there was a decision to resolve the previous problems and reopen the system. It was decided that a combination of two different systems (a funicular in the horizontal tunnel and an elevator in the 70-meter shaft) would be the best solution. The design was guided by Poma Italia (now partner of Leitner spa) and the new – and unique – system opened in 2004.
The two cabins switching between the vertical and the horizontal path. The orange cabin is entering ithe vertical shaft, while the blue cabin is transitionaing into the horizontal, funicular system.

The operation is simple and unique, with two cabins – each with a maximum capacity of 23 people – that move alternatively through two separate paths. In the horizontal path, the cabins are pulled along a rail-line up by a rope, like any conventional, funicular system. At the end of the horizontal path, there are two vertical shafts, one for each cabin. Once reached, the cabin separates from the rope by opening the locked jaws and automated tires transition the cabin into the vertical shaft through a moving platform. Once the cabin is stabilized and secured, they are lifted like any conventional elevator. Each one-way trip lasts about 3 minutes and the system needs about 10-15 seconds to switch from the horizontal funicular system to the vertical elevator system. The two cabins depart simultaneously at the two ends of the track and pass each other half way through the journey. The operation of the system is completely automated, so no driver is needed.

Although this system is quite unique, the visit and study of this system is fundamental to the development of this research. This research is examining a new technology in the internal transportation industry, and case studies such as this highlight the unique and unconventional systems that already exist and are also part of the historical and technical analysis of transportation systems.


The cabin moving along the horizontal rail path to reach the Via Balbi entrance.