Post by Steven Dale
As I’ve stated throughout this series, the Yenimahalle Teleferik (Ankara Cable Car) is remarkably innovative in its station design and can lay claim to a wide variety of ‘firsts.’ Those firsts are all related to matters of urban design, though not from a technology perspective. All of the innovation is in its relationship to the surrounding urban environment.
That’s important because the cable car industry hasn’t historically shown much concern to those matters. The Yenimahalle Teleferik is therefore emblematic of a dynamic industry in flux.
The growth in the urban gondola industry over the last decade has been breathtaking. We’ve seen so many installations go into operation and so many advances in the technology, it’s almost hard to remember how nascent this industry really is.
What’s happening in Ankara, however, I suspect is a watershed moment for the industry — or at the very least for the system’s manufacturer, Leitner. The Yenimahalle Teleferik shows Leitner coming to grips with the urban fundamentals of what is undeniably their urban future.
Careful industry players will recognize Yenimahalle for the turning point it is. It is a system that is debating what it means for a gondola system to actually be a part of the urban fabric. Given the complexity of the urban environment the system needed to contend with, that’s a question system designers could’ve simply ignored.
Instead, they doubled-down and tried to navigate it.
This may sound high-minded, but Yenimahalle is a system in conversation with the surrounding city. That conversation is sometimes confused, sometimes a bit misguided and not always clear, but the fact that it’s happening is what’s important.
I earlier called the Yenimahalle Teleferik as an “imperfect masterpiece,” and I stand by that assessment. The system juggles such a dizzying array of first-of-its-kind urban design moments, it’s no wonder some are only half-realized.
And who cares if it doesn’t succeed entirely?
When the first iPhone came out way back in 2007, it was hailed as a total game-changer. It was not, however, without faults. The software was buggy, the battery life poor and the app store still a year away.
Nevertheless, the iPhone totally upended how the public viewed what a cell phone could do and be. Apple essentially created the entire industry of mobile computing with the simple idea that a cell phone could be so much more than it originally was.
That’s what’s happening in Ankara.
The Yenimahalle Teleferik represents the moment when an industry said “maybe we need to rethink how a cable car fits into the urban form.” They didn’t get everything right—who ever really does?—but they had the foresight and the courage to address the question and try to get it right.
Yenimahalle lays the groundwork for future system design in ways that are completely original and compelling. Smart designers of the future will examine this system and stand on its shoulders — which is good for everyone.
And it is that inspirational and aspirational quality that, I’m certain, will be the Yenimahalle Teleferik’s legacy for decades to come.
Want more? Purchase Cable Car Confidential: The Essential Guide to Cable Cars, Urban Gondolas & Cable Propelled Transit and start learning about the world's fastest growing transportation technologies.