It was an outstanding night for HMH Architecture + Interiors at the 2019 AIA Colorado Design Awards on September 13, 2019. The firm was well represented, and our Modern Stair received an award of distinction for architectural detail. This success is thanks to a company-wide commitment to excellence and hard work. It’s special to know that our designs are not just appreciated by our clients and the end-users, they are celebrated by the regional architectural community.

This award was the product of the hard work from the design team of

  • Harvey Hine, AIA, Principal Architect
  • Neal Evers, Architect
  • Rob Brindley at Modern Craftsman
  • Our amazing client who is very involved in the design process

Thank you to everyone for supporting us… We are grateful to be surrounded by the best clients, reps, and colleagues.

Award of Distinction (Architectural Detail) – Modern Stair

Staircases can be much more than a route to other levels. They can also ‘wow’ as a design feature and add a strong architectural statement within a home. With the vast popularity of “modern” architecture, “modern” has become a style rather than a philosophy. Architects have been complaisant in designing modern buildings that are beautifully composed and detailed but not very original or inventive. This stair takes the ‘wow factor’ to the extreme while offering the minimalist interior of the home something complex, sculptural and striking – a physical and figurative fracture in the architecture.

The abstract, geometric, folding stair structure drew inspiration from origami trees: a rooted trunk growing, branching out, and reaching skyward. As you ascend you experience natural light streaming down from the massive skylight above. The walkway’s zigzag movement encourages pause to take in the beauty of the sculptural tower. Each level of the residence provides a distinct view of the center structure, as an abstract composition in an ordered plan. The materials used—metal, wood, glass—are antithetical yet complimentary to the minimal architecture of the new home.

The exterior wall adjacent to the stair also folds with the composition of the stair. On the exterior of the house, the stair tower takes the spotlight as large folding plate walls. Made of black brick, the folding plates are an enigma in relation to the traditional brick house in the neighborhood.

Creating something exceptional requires careful thought and extensive planning by a large team of designers, engineers and fabricators. From a technical perspective, stairs are one of the most challenging aspects of architecture due to necessary precise dimensioning, restrictive building codes, multiple trades and budget. An innovative stair design, especially when geometrically complex, requires the architect to play the role of conductor and cheerleader. From the start the Modern Stair design required coordination of many trades, including framers, drywall subs, masons, finish carpenters, steel fabricators, wood flooring manufacturers, glass manufacturers, metal finishers, painters and installation crews for all of the above.

We worked in a partnership with the steel fabricator to ensure the design was both beautiful and could be built. Together the team developed a steel plate waffle structure with a steel plate skin. After designing the stair many times over in a 3d modeling program, the skilled people at the fabricator put together a scaled structural mock-up model. After further discussion and development, work began on the full scale stair. The individual pieces were cut in-house at the fabricator’s workshop and then transported to be assembled and installed on site.

The folding brick wall is lightly depicted in this perspective with the folded metal stair beyond.

The steel fabricator put together a scaled structural mock-up model for the skeleton and skin of the stair.

The individual pieces of the full-scale stair were cut in-house at the steel fabricator’s workshop and transported to be assembled and installed on-site.

Upon entering the house and making a 90° turn, the stair opens up into view. When seeing the stair one questions any preconceived notions about the architecture.

Stair from the third floor looking down – floating wood treads match the wood floors of the house

Stair from the third floor looking down – floating wood treads match the wood floors of the house

Walking past unfamiliar forms combined with unexpected light from above creates a kinetic and integrated experience with the architecture.

Stair near the top level of the house. Looking up at the large skylight above, the structure of the stair feathers out.

At the top landing of the stair the metal structure growing up from below minimizes and the bright sunlight from above dominates.