It Takes Time

Harsh Thakkar
EFS 2026

AAA, I’m falling!” “Suffocation, uh oh,” “Whoops, awkward,” “Hmm, interesting interiors.” Yes, these are just some of the thoughts I, and probably all of us, get while embarking on one of those everlasting elevator rides.

Since starting my daily life at RISD, elevators have become an essential part of my routine, or rather, everyone’s routine. Come down from the dorms, take an elevator. Get to class, take an elevator. Go to the museum, take an elevator. Go anywhere, take an elevator. Along with all this elevator commuting comes all the different experiences in different elevators in different RISD buildings. Generally, an ideal elevator experience would be one where the elevator arrives quickly and travels fast and maybe raises a feeling of awe with its gorgeous interiors. But what else is at play?

I believe everyone needs to appreciate the array of elevator experiences available to the RISD community. In order to create a vital directory, I made the trek to 15 West, North Hall, Homer Hall, and 30 Waterman and took their elevators from the first to the fourth floor. I analyzed the interiors of the elevator, taking note of how much my nerves wracked at the width of the car. I considered other factors: gloominess levels, feelings and smells, as well as overall accessibility. I tested out the buttons, noted the time it takes to complete that short journey, checked the noise levels caused by movement, and finally, measured the awkwardness in the air when someone walked in. (Fortunately, none of the elevators had an existing odor, at least not at the time I was inside, unless someone released that gust of air they’d been holding inside since long after I left.)

What struck me upon entering each elevator was a certain feeling of compartmentalization, even in the most impressive and rather royal atmosphere in the elevators in 15 West. The building, of course, houses the Fleet Library, but also features gorgeous ceiling arches and tinted window panels with shimmers of gold all around.  It feels like being back in Europe. The stand-out feature in 15 West is the ornately decorated elevator doors, which feel like portals to a regal interior. Want a cherry on the cake? The elevators in 15 West have color-coordinated button controls. Each matches the ochre wooden interiors of the lift, alluding to a more comfortable elevator experience. This feature is more psychological than physical—the appeal of it. But one elevator expectation surpassed them all: the time it took to arrive. The abundance of elevators in the building, a total of four on one side of Portfolio Cafe and two on the other, made this possible.

The Homer and North Hall elevators are also tied aesthetically to their interiors. Both are lined with elusive sheet padding and host doors opening on opposite sides at different levels. With identical interiors come a similar set of buttons—both shiny and lustrous. Given the likeness between the Homer and North elevators, it was easy to spot differences between them. The Homer elevator arrived quicker than the North elevator and also had a shorter ride time in comparison, which is likely due to the fact that Homer has two elevators compared to only one in North Hall. A very useful feature of both elevators is the beeping sound conducted as you arrive at your desired floor, in case you’re deeply engrossed in your surroundings, noting the dramatic view from the windows by the elevator.

The 30 Waterman elevator ranked the lowest in my survey as it was one of the oldest and had a comparatively narrow width, which made it more daunting and suffocative in nature. This elevator seems to get almost nil usage, perhaps due to a rumor circulating about this particular elevator stopping midway in the past. While speaking to a few sophomores who experienced the phenomenon firsthand, I realized that it was in fact not a rumor. Having stopped in the past, this elevator was simply a no-go. It is a rather gloomy elevator as well, illuminated by poor lighting and riddled with rusty buttons.

While elevators are usually the easiest option, stairs can be a quicker and less awkward substitute. Stairs help skip the wait and get you to your destination faster than an elevator ride but of course, they have their own disadvantages. What about the times you are tasked in carrying that gigantic sketchbook and heavy toolkit tote? Not a good idea for stairs I guess. One crucial factor involving this arrangement (that you may want to keep in mind) is which floor you are headed to. If it is a lower floor, taking a flight of stairs might be a wise idea. However,  if it’s a higher-level floor, the elevator would definitely be the preferred option, even if it comes with the price of time.

Stairs are of course not an option at all for some, and this raises another point of concern: the accessibility purpose of elevators, for those who cannot use the stairs. Elevators are the embodiment of a knight in shining armor (with their shiny metallic interiors) for people with physical disabilities, even as they are used by all kinds of people, no matter what their encompassing identity is.

My journey to RISD’s elevators held one big surprise: it turned out to be absurdly nostalgic. I was reminded of the times when I ventured into an elevator as a kid, confused at how just a few moments spent inside those four walls can, as soon as you become accustomed to it, immediately transport you into a completely different environment. As a grown up (a teenager) my elevator trips placed me back into a cycle of observational analysis, but this time, in a more knowing and formal way. Beyond the features and attributes of elevators, I was led to contemplate the ephemerality of elevators. How long does an elevator ride last, not just in real time, but in the mind? How much do those small minutes matter? In the end, elevators are just representative portals that compel you to get accustomed to their true nature, no matter what that may be. It's the long term effects of elevators which converge into a static momentum, all in a fraction of seconds.

Harsh Thakkar owns translucent crocs which he customizes with funky socks (it’s a self-patent).