Tate modern displays gravity-defying sustainable staircase

16 September 2013
By Abi Grogan
Mobile version
Share |

Inspired by artist Escher's endless staircase optical illusion, the American Hardwood Association, Arup and dRMM architects have combined sustainability forces to produce a sculpture showcasing tulipwood as an exemplary building material.

In a panel discussion opened this morning, the installation was hailed as an incredible architectural piece and an engineering triumph.

Built from a three-ply tulipwood timber called CLT, the material was chosen for its equal strength in all directions, achieved by a unique layering during manufacture.

The project was intended to prove the benefits of using plentiful low-grade hardwood as opposed to less sustainable softwood substitutes. Tulipwood is remarkably strong for its weight meaning the panels can be thinner than softwood equivalents.

Ben Evans, Director of London Design Week who were supporting the unveiling, led the panel discussion, saying "We wanted to create something of a different scale in a public place, using one of the world's greatest resources to express ourselves in a unique way. We wanted a vast audience to see this."

The installation, which will run for four weeks from it's pitch in front of the Tate Modern museum, is expected to withstand the footfall of hundreds of visitors per day.

David Venables, European Director of the American Hardwood Export Council,  admitted the project had been 'homeless' after it's original location outside St Pauls Catherdral was scrapped in light of planning issues. He said the newly located project was "a merge of fantastic design, incredible engineering, sustainable materials and the Tate Modern as a venue. We've got a great technical understanding of our material and we want to shout about it. Sometimes the best way to engage is to do something completely out of the ordinary."

Grown in the US, manufactured in Italy and fabricated in Switzerland, the cradle-to-gate approach surprisingly yields a negative carbon footprint when shipped to Europe. It features 187 steps and took ten days to install.

Professor Alex de Rijke, Director of dRMM the architects behind the installation, said that wood was the "new concrete." He rejected the modern notion that concrete and steel structures were the best internal support for new builds. "The nineteenth century was brick, the twentieth century was steel and the twenty first century was concrete. What will this century be? I'm convinced there's hope in timber in the same way we can't prescribe hope to steel and concrete because they're so carbon intensive.

"And why stairs? Because stairs are sculpture's gift to architecture."

The installation will run until 10th October 2013. For more information please visit: http://www.londondesignfestival.com/endless-stair

Latest Issue

E&T cover image 1606

"Where would Frankenstein and his creative mind fit into today's workplace? Should we fear technological developments or embrace them?"

E&T jobs

  • Principal Consultant

    EA Technology
    • Capenhurst
    • Up to £60k DOE + company bonus, generous pension scheme & benefits package

    EA Technology are recruiting for Experienced Consultants to deliver a broad portfolio of projects within our Smart Interventions Division.

    • Recruiter: EA Technology

    Apply for this job

  • Senior Consultant

    EA Technology
    • Capenhurst
    • Up to £45k DOE + company bonus, generous pension scheme & benefits package

    EA Technology are recruiting for Experienced Consultants to deliver a broad portfolio of projects within our Smart Interventions Division

    • Recruiter: EA Technology

    Apply for this job

  • Mid-Level Electrical Engineer

    Max Fordham LLP
    • London

    We are looking for an electrical engineer with around 4- 6 years of design experience to join and work with an able and talented group of engineers..

    • Recruiter: Max Fordham LLP

    Apply for this job

  • Electrical Training Officer / NVQ 3 Assessor

    Premium job

    JTL
    • Norwich, Norfolk
    • Competitive + Pension + Personal BUPA cover

    As a Qualified Electrician, you know what it takes to complete electrical work to exceptional standards of safety and quality.

    • Recruiter: JTL

    Apply for this job

  • Electrical Training Officer / NVQ 3 Assessor

    Premium job

    JTL
    • Dorchester, Poole or Bournemouth
    • Circa £29,000

    As a Qualified Electrician, you know what it takes to complete electrical work to exceptional standards of safety and quality.

    • Recruiter: JTL

    Apply for this job

  • Electrical Training Officer / NVQ 3 Assessor

    Premium job

    JTL
    • London
    • Competitive + Pension + Personal BUPA cover

    As a Qualified Electrician, you know what it takes to complete electrical work to exceptional standards of safety and quality.

    • Recruiter: JTL

    Apply for this job

  • Project Manager - Eastern Region

    Defence Infrastructure Organisation
    • Woolwich, London
    • £24,362 (plus car, +10% supervisory allowance)

    Opportunity to be at the heart of what SSG will be delivering to its wide and varied client base.

    • Recruiter: Defence Infrastructure Organisation

    Apply for this job

  • Project Manager - South West

    Defence Infrastructure Organisation
    • Shrivenham, Swindon
    • £24,362 (plus car, +10% supervisory allowance)

    The Project Manager would be responsible for remedial and small/medium new project works across the Southwest of England

    • Recruiter: Defence Infrastructure Organisation

    Apply for this job

  • Nuclear Facilities Governance Manager

    BAE Systems
    • England, Cumbria, Barrow-In-Furness
    • Negotiable

    Nuclear Facilities Governance Manager Would you like to be accountable for all the Nuclear Governance for both existing day to day facilities on the Barrow Site in addition to the Proposed Facilities development which is part of the multi-million pound si

    • Recruiter: BAE Systems

    Apply for this job

  • Impact Specialist

    Cardiff University
    • Cardiff, Cardiff (Caerdydd)
    • £31,656 - £37,768 per annum (Grade 6).

    You will enhance the interface with business, public and third sector research users.

    • Recruiter: Cardiff University

    Apply for this job

More jobs ▶

Subscribe

Choose the way you would like to access the latest news and developments in your field.

Subscribe to E&T