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 1607

"As the dust settles after the referendum result, we consider what happens next. We also look forward to an international summer of sport."

E&T jobs

  • Spectrum Technology Analyst

    • Baldock, Hertfordshire
    • £Competitive Plus Comprehensive Benefits Package

    Ofcom is the independent regulator and competition authority for the UK communications sectors and we are globally respected for the work we do.

    • Recruiter: Ofcom

    Apply for this job

  • Test Engineering Opportunities

    • Hanslope Park, Milton Keynes
    • Salary offered will depend on skills and experience

    Push incredible innovations beyond their limits. Opportunities for Software, Hardware, EMC, Test and Inspection Engineers!

    • Recruiter: HMGCC

    Apply for this job

  • Development Engineer Opportunities

    • Hanslope Park, Milton Keynes
    • Salary offered will depend on skills and experience

    At HMGCC, we’re the place where exceptional creativity, ground-breaking ideas and cutting-edge technologies unite.

    • Recruiter: HMGCC

    Apply for this job

  • Head of School of Engineering and Advanced Technology

    Massey University
    • Albany or Palmerston North

    This role offers an outstanding opportunity to lead and further develop a well-established and internationally recognized School.

    • Recruiter: Massey University

    Apply for this job

  • Engineering Support Opportunities

    • Hanslope Park, Milton Keynes
    • Salary offered will depend on skills and experience

    Working in one of our support roles, you’ll be integral to the creation of some of the most advanced bit of kit in the world.

    • Recruiter: HMGCC

    Apply for this job

  • Programme Manager, Network Resilience

    Energy Networks Association
    • Westminster
    • Competitive salary, dependent on experience

    Co-ordinate the network resilience, emergency planning and the Single Electricity Number (SEN) work in the ENA Engineering team.

    • Recruiter: Energy Networks Association

    Apply for this job

  • Senior Engineer - Configuration

    BAE Systems
    • Surrey, Frimley, England / England, Weymouth, Dorset
    • Negotiable

    Senior Engineer - Configuration Would you like to assist the Combat System Configuration Manager in ensuring that changes to the Common Combat System design are sufficiently assessed, approved, implemented, managed and controlled in accordance with BAE Sy

    • Recruiter: BAE Systems

    Apply for this job

  • System Planning and Investment Engineer

    • Reading
    • 37,000 - £55,000 Plus excellent benefits package - salary depending on experience

    System Planning and Investment team act as custodian of the 132kV and EHV distribution network, provide business with technical expertise.

    • Recruiter: SSE

    Apply for this job

  • Chair in Integrated Sensor Technology

    The University of Edinburgh
    • Edinburgh, City of Edinburgh

    The University of Edinburgh is one of the world’s top 20 institutions of higher education.....

    • Recruiter: The University of Edinburgh

    Apply for this job

  • Metering Engineer

    Department for Business, Innovation and Skills
    • Teddington, United Kingdom
    • £24,109 - £27,961 plus EO Electronics PE of £8,090.00

    We are now looking for a Metering Engineer to deliver RD’s In-Service Testing (IST) scheme for gas and electricity meters.

    • Recruiter: Department for Business, Innovation and Skills

    Apply for this job

More jobs ▶


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

Subscribe to E&T