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TO APRIL 18, 2004
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An “elevator man” is an outstanding leaper. “Elevator music” is really shitty. But what, dear friends, of the simple elevator? Elevators, escalators, and moving sidewalks may move our suitcases and our tired feet, butaside from the occasional love in an elevator, and the even rarer love on a moving sidewalkthey rarely move our hearts. “Up, Down, Across: Elevators, Escalators, and Moving Sidewalks,” the National Building Museum’s current exhibition on people-movers, harks back to a time when folks were less blasé about the means of their vertical and horizontal transport. As you might expect from a design-museum exhibition, the showcomplete with a neato walk-in elevatoris visually enticing. An eye-catching timeline, complete with models and diagrams of such landmarks as Alfred Speer’s 1870s design for a moving sidewalk system for New York City, covers one wall. And though a collection of photos documents the evolution of people-moving in modern architecture (an escalator at Paris’ Georges Pompidou Centre is pictured), a single item carries the torch for postmodern elevation: an unadorned pneumatic tube, lying abjectly in the corner. As you wait to learn whether this is the device that will bust our generation out of its collective forward-facing, unblinking stupor, revel in a hilarious sequence from the Dutch horror film De Lift that plays every few minutes as part of a continuous loop of classic elevator-movie moments. But as you exit the museum, please don’t repeat that movie’s overwrought tag line: “Take the stairs, take the stairs. For God’s sake, take the stairs!!!” The exhibition is on view from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays, and from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sundays, to Sunday, April 18, 2004, at the National Building Museum, 401 F St. NW. (202) 272-2448. $5 (suggested donation). (Josh Levin)