Gondola Lifts

by Peter Sigrist

This is just a brief call for gondolas that float between buildings and trees, that pass by windows, chimneys, lamps and steeples, with people going by in the opposite direction, bouncing softly above rooftops. I'm reminded of Portland's aerial tram, which I suspect is a more accurate term, since a search for gondola turns up mostly Venice. Portland does everything right. But in this case not quite. Portland's aerial tram doesn't go through the city in its most dense areas. I mean, it's still right. It's rational and efficient. It doesn't really have to be romantic.

The tram to Roosevelt Island is more integrated. There's the bridge, and some buildings on either side before leaving Manhattan. As in Portland, the faraway views are beautiful. Still it doesn't feel like moving through rooms. There isn't a new atmosphere every 20 feet or less, like in the video above.

There are all kinds of interesting forms of cable transportation. I love the sky bus at Mt. Hood, the aerial tram at Palm Springs, and the Tochal Telecabin at a ski slope in Iran. For more information and examples, see a post by Megan McConville on cable cars, and another by Steven Dale on Cable-Propelled Transit (CPT).

Someone, actually the Gondola Project, has addressed the naming question. Wikipedia lists all the aerial tramways in the world, and further clarifies the naming question. It seems that aerial tramways are pulled along a fixed cable, while Goldola lifts and funitels move with their cable in a forward loop and can detach temporarily to board passengers. Funitels are usually larger, with paired cables for added stability. I think the example in the video is a gondola lift.

All amazing, but still not quite what I have in mind. This is less about CPT and more about urban settings. The video reminds me of small, unconventional places that are often just out of view. A charming gondola lift might work well in these settings.

Credits: Film clip (from the movie "Assa," featuring the song "Golden City" by Akvarium) posted at tabri59.


  1. Have you read about this new cable car (teleferico) connecting the barrios of Caracas?



  2. Thank you for posting those links! I'd read about the cable car in Caracas, but not in much detail, and not with so many inspiring images. I especially like this view from the ground: http://www.moma.org/interactives/exhibitions/2010/smallscalebigchange/projects/metro_cable

  3. Rebecka Gordan did a great interview here with Urban-Think Tank, the designers of the Caracas cable car.