The muse for this staircase is a recent installation by Do Ho Suh at the Tate Modern Gallery called “Staircase-III”. Staircase-III is a short flight of 12 steps that start in mid air and finish at the ceiling of the Tate Gallery. Meant only to be sculptural and not functional, the flight of stairs is created with a see through gauzy balustrade and a thin run of continuous steps. The vibrant red of Suh’s flight of fancy is poetic and inspiring so it is no wonder the client requested a. floating staircase that referenced the Do Ho Suh art installation. The finished result by Diapo is a work of art in itself.
The specs required the bespoke design to be created for a split-level property for access to the second level. The request was for a stairwell that was suspended from the upper level with no visible structural support and because they loved the Do Ho Suh creation so much, they wanted the finish to have a similar red used in his installation.
The first thing that needed to be decided upon was the choice of material. It had to be lightweight and extremely sturdy. It needed to have some sort of transparency to pay tribute to the gauzy appeal of the Do Ho Suh piece and it needed to have a sculptural aesthetic.
The material of choice became a perforated steel mesh that would have its perforations laser cut for a completely accurate repetition of pattern. The perforations would serve to purposes. They would offer the transparent effect – allowing the stair user or viewer the ability to see through the structure, and the perforations would also reduce the overall weight of the steel mesh structure. The lightweight mesh allowed the prefabricated stairwell to be built as a singular unit and before it was suspended in location off of steel beams hidden above the ceiling within the joists of the 2nd floor.
5×4 meter perforated steel panels where used to create a seamless transition between the treads, risers and balustrade. The treads and risers use a continuous sheet of 5mm perforated and folded steel plate that runs the complete length of the stairwell.
This run is then attached to a vertical perforated balustrade that serves as the hanging support as well as the stairwell stringer. The Lateral load of the stairs is deflected by a combination of the plate bending and the membrane action. These two structural features generate tension forces in the balustrade that are then transferred to the steel beams hidden within the ceiling.
The lightweight structure has been designed to be structural sound but light in perception, the lack of a visible support system and the bold use of Cadmium Red give the stairwell a unique artistic quality that commands attention without being overbearing.
The bent steel mesh used to create the structure offers a rhythm and textural quality to the design that makes you want to reach out and touch it.
While the undersides of most staircases are blanketed in shadow, the perforations of this bespoke design allows light to pass through. The only shadows cast will be ones of interesting and intriguing patterns created by the laser cut pattern of the mesh.
The recessed lights along the stairwell wall create a reflective sheen of the Cadmium Red finish that reflects and bounces the light in multiple directions creating added depth and dimension to this one of a kind functional sculpture.
With all the bends required to create this staircase, the lack of a visible support structure required a manufacturing process that involved both the technical aspect presented by the engineers and highly skilled metalworkers that could create a final product of precision craftsmanship.
12-With the final product installed, the only addition to this interactive art form that was not supplied by Diapo is the human element. The homeowners and their guests supply that important feature.