A beautifully complex staircase made of cross-laminated timber stands as the centerpiece of architecture firm Acme Studio’s office in London. The studio wanted to show off how modern methods of construction can take such a simple material to great heights with an ‘adaptive design’ approach, and the results are certainly dramatic. It took 48 weeks to design this staircase, four weeks to manufacture it and just five days to install. The existing building had no usable staircase between floors, so they started by cutting a hole into the first floor slab.
During demolition, they realized the existing first floor concrete slabs couldn’t hold any more weight. So instead of relying on connections of the staircase at its top and bottom, the firm designed it as a free-standing cantilever with no connection to the floor above to make it self-supporting. To save money and reduce waste, they created a highly precise timber cutting list.
“The stair is a prototype to show how very humble elements of solid timber, simply fixed together, can form an interesting sculptural solution to the everyday task of going up and down, and solve a complex structural problem with an intelligently engineered solution and an interesting use of timber technology,” says Friedrich Ludewig, Acme director. “Simple structures can be simultaneously beautiful, economical and practical, and help to create inspiring spaces in which to live and work.”
The firm added mirrors on either side wall, multiplying the staircase visually, and chose not to include handrails (which, as we all know, doesn’t exactly fly under most local building codes in the U.S., and could represent a liability nightmare.) The result is definitely a little disorienting and potentially dangerous, but darn if isn’t gorgeous.