"Since the introduction in 1853 (in public exhibit in New York's CristalPalace) of the Otis "safety device", elevators have been regarded simply as atechnological innovation, one of several technological innovations necessaryto the possibility of tall buildings. Other than being seen as a limit on ulti-mate height, elevators have not been viewed as a dynamic factor in what wethink about when we think of tall buildings.Current elevator systems are incredibly inefficient in several ways. Thispaper focuses on just one ramification of elevator inefficiency: the necessity in tall buildings to group individual elevator shafts together into elevator"cores". The cores, in turn, assure that large numbers of people, often withlittle reason otherwise to be together, must pass through or occupy the im-mense areas taken up by circulation corridors and waiting lobbies. Bothpassing through and waiting in these anonymous spaces are commonly-occuring social situations. Floor plans of five "typical" tall office buildingsare analyzed to expose the dimensions and qualities of this experience.Why has the history of elevators been a technological history, with virtual-ly no public recognition of the social effects of elevator systems? There arethree explanations which I consider: 1) The social effects of elevator sys-tems are unrecognized and unintended and, additionaly, are tolerated becausethere is no conception of a viable alternative; 2) The social effects of eleva-tor systems are recognized though unintended, but are tolerated because thesocial costs are borne by individual system users who have no power to af-fect decisions; 3) The social effects are both recognized and intended, andserve as a means of social or organizational control."