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.