London Design Festival: Climbing the endless stair

The Endless Stair installation is a series of 20 interlocking staircases inspired by the illusory artwork of M.C Escher.

Endless Stair by dRMM architects
The Endless Stair

Designed by architect dRMM in collaboration with the American Hardwood Export Council and ARUP Engineers, it’s sited outside the Tate Modern overlooking the Thames.

Although Escher-inspired, what we find is of course firmly rooted within the laws of gravity. Nobody appeared to disappear, or walk upside down. A few mirrors might have given this effect though.

Endless Stair by dRMM architects
A mysterious hooded figure climbs the stairs

It is lively, spirited and engaging enough to make it worth your while. From certain angles people do appear to be sending themselves toward a vertiginous platform at the top of the stair, where you get this view of St Paul’s Cathedral and can stare endlessly, until someone else wants a go.

Do make sure you walk around it and under it as well as up it. From certain angles it does begin to look quite deceptive and mesmeric.

Endless Stair by dRMM architects
The view from the top

Structurally it’s very impressive as well. As mentioned in our preview its cross-laminated timber construction means it can bear great loads yet little material is needed to make each step.

There are 187 of these and the whole structure is made of 11.4 tonnes of American tulipwood – one of the most abundant timbers in North America.

Endless Stair by dRMM architects
The Endless Stair comes to an end

The American Hardwood Export Council and Arup Engineers have made several collaborative pieces with LDF over previous years including the Timber Wave V&A entrance installation for the 2011 festival.

I remember at the time wanting to climb all over it, so it’s nice to be able to be given the opportunity with this project.

Endless Stair by dRMM architects
Design Week’s Tom Banks on the stair

Endless Stair runs from 13 September to 10 October and will be accessible during daylight hours from 9am until dusk and by night can be viewed in the glow of illuminations by Seam Design.

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