This shopping mall has to be amazing. Architects of the world, give up now: The world’s largest spiral escalator has already been built in this Shanghai shopping mall. Reaching seven stories and resembling a shiny golden drill the size of a skyscraper, the escalators are a matching pair of two spiral staircases with a total of 12 curved escalator pieces. The two were designed and built by Mitsubishi Electric of Japan. Actually, if you dig around about the (very few) spiral escalators in the world, you’ll find that Mitsubishi makes them all.
There’s a reason for this niche market approach: Spiral escalators are absolutely terrifying to design, which probably makes sense if you remember your lessons from physics class. You see, when escalators try to move in a circular pattern, horizontal speed varies across the width of the escalator from the inner side to the outer side. You can’t have one side of the escalator moving a different rate from the other side, not if you want it to stay in one piece.
To stop the escalators from tearing themselves apart, Mitsubishi made a pact with the forces of darkness and altered the laws of physics – oh all right, the company actually created a series of chains to hold the escalator surface steady and used extra-flexible materials to keep down on the wear and tear. Now the escalators function like a pair of very, very smart screws, and no doubt Archimedes would be proud.