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Jordi Vayreda
Jordi Vayreda

10 Notable Staircases

Jordi Vayreda
Jordi Vayreda

Staircases can be so much more than just a means of getting to the next floor. A staircase can be a work of art, a conversation piece, a place to meditate, or a historical marker.

Floating on a Wall

This floating staircase above by designer Jordi Vayreda looks dangerous, but the steps are made of steel welded to a thick beam inside the wall. The top of the wall can be used as a handrail for the upper half of the staircase. See more pictures and an explanation here.

Hanging Spirals

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This design makes sweeping under the stairs easy! A hanging double spiral staircase is part of the Didden Village project in Rotterdam. There are two such staircases; the other is a single spiral.

Bookshelf Stairs

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Levitate Architects of London designed this bookshelf staircase to combine storage space with access to a loft bedroom. The skylight above provides enough daylight to read a book while you sit on the stairs!

Staircase Drawers

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Another way to use stairs for extra storage is to put drawers in the risers. That's a lot of drawers. When this design went around the internet, everyone loved it, but all I could think of was how my kids tend to leave drawers open, and how easy it would be to trip over one that was left even the slightest bit ajar.

Alternating Stairs

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Gabriella Gustafson and Mattias Ståhlbom of TAF designed this unusual staircase for a private residence in Stockholm, Sweden. The alternating stair design takes up much less room than conventional stairs, but you cannot rush up or down without thinking about where you put your feet!

Step Up, Slide Down

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Entrepreneur Scott Jones built a spiral staircase combined with a slide for his home. The mahogany slide took 15 months to build, and the spiral staircase was added afterward.

The Stairway as Art

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Artist Olafur Eliasson created this steel sculpture called Umschreibung (Rewriting) in 2004 for the KPMG building in Munich.

Stairs to Nowhere

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The Winchester Mystery House in San Jose, California, was built by Sarah L. Winchester, widow of the famous gun maker. The 160-room house was under constant construction for 38 years, until Winchester's death in 1922. She believed that the house was haunted by the spirits of those killed by Winchester rifles, and only constant building would keep them from taking her life. One of the many strange features of the house is this staircase that leads straight to the ceiling!

The Miraculous Staircase

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The helix staircase at Sisters of Loretto Chapel in Santa Fe, New Mexico has legendary roots. The story goes that the chapel was built without access to the choir loft. There was no room for a normal staircase, so the sisters prayed to St. Joseph (the carpenter) for a solution. A mysterious man arrived, looking for work, and built the spiral staircase without a center support pole. He then left without being paid. The nuns believed the stranger to be St. Joseph himself. Later evidence points to the staircase as the work of French woodworker Francois-Jean Rochas. Some say the staircase is a miracle since it has no visible means of support, while others say the support is there, it's just hidden from view.

Memorial Stairs

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The Survivor's Staircase was the only part of the World Trade Center left standing above ground after the destruction of September 11, 2001. The staircase was recently moved for the second time this year, as construction of the World Trade Center Memorial and Museum continues. It will be installed as part of the memorial, scheduled to be completed in 2012. Image by Phillip Ritz.

Some staircases were found at deputydog and Neatorama.

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Courtesy of Fernando Artigas
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architecture
Step Inside This Stunning, Nature-Inspired Art Gallery in Tulum, Mexico
Courtesy of Fernando Artigas
Courtesy of Fernando Artigas

Upon closer inspection, this building in Tulum, Mexico, doesn’t seem like a suitable place to house an art exhibit. Everything that makes it so visually striking—its curved walls, uneven floors, and lack of drab, white backgrounds—also makes it a challenge for curators.

But none of these factors deterred Santiago Rumney Guggenheim—the great-grandson of the late famed art collector and heiress Peggy Guggenheim—from christening the space an art gallery. And thus, IK LAB was born.

“We want to trigger the creative minds of artists to create for a completely different environment,” Rumney Guggenheim, the gallery’s director, tells Artsy. “We are challenging the artists to make work for a space that doesn’t have straight walls or floors—we don’t even have walls really, it’s more like shapes coming out of the floor. And the floor is hardly a floor.”

A view inside IK LAB
Courtesy of Fernando Artigas

A view inside IK LAB
Courtesy of Fernando Artigas

A view inside IK LAB
Courtesy of Fernando Artigas

A view inside IK LAB
Courtesy of Fernando Artigas

IK LAB was brought to life by Rumney Guggenheim and Jorge Eduardo Neira Sterkel, the founder of luxury resort Azulik. The two properties, which have a similar style of architecture, share a site near the Caribbean coast. IK LAB may be unconventional, but it certainly makes a statement. Its ceiling is composed of diagonal slats resembling the veins of a leaf, and a wavy wooden texture breaks up the monotony of concrete floors. Entry to the gallery is gained through a 13-foot-high glass door that’s shaped a little like a hobbit hole.

The gallery was also designed to be eco-conscious. The building is propped up on stilts, which not only lets wildlife pass underneath, but also gives guests a view overlooking the forest canopy. Many of the materials have been sourced from local jungles. Gallery organizers say the building is designed to induce a “meditative state,” and visitors are asked to go barefoot to foster a more sensory experience. (Be careful, though—you wouldn't want to trip on the uneven floor.)

The gallery's first exhibition, "Alignments," features the suspended sculptures of Artur Lescher, the perception-challenging works of Margo Trushina, and the geometrical pendulums of Tatiana Trouvé. One piece by Trouvé features 250 pendulums suspended from the gallery's domed ceiling. If you want to see this exhibit, be sure to get there before it ends in September.

[h/t Dezeen]

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Engineers Have Figured Out How the Leaning Tower of Pisa Withstands Earthquakes
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iStock

Builders had barely finished the second floor of the Tower of Pisa when the structure started to tilt. Despite foundational issues, the project was completed, and eight centuries and at least four major earthquakes later, the precarious landmark remains standing. Now, a team of engineers from the University of Bristol and other institutions claims to have finally solved the mystery behind its endurance.

Pisa is located between the Arno and Serchio rivers, and the city's iconic tower was built on soft ground consisting largely of clay, shells, and fine sand. The unstable foundation meant the tower had been sinking little by little until 2008, when construction workers removed 70 metric tons of soil to stabilize the site. Today it leans at a 4-degree angle—about 13 feet past perfectly vertical.

Now researchers say that the dirt responsible for the tower's lean also played a vital role in its survival. Their study, which will be presented at this year's European Conference on Earthquake Engineering in Greece, shows that the combination of the tall, stiff tower with the soft soil produced an effect known as dynamic soil-structure interaction, or DSSI. During an earthquake, the tower doesn't move and shake with the earth the same way it would with a firmer, more stable foundation. According to the engineers, the Leaning Tower of Pisa is the world's best example of the effects of DSSI.

"Ironically, the very same soil that caused the leaning instability and brought the tower to the verge of collapse can be credited for helping it survive these seismic events," study co-author George Mylonakis said in a statement.

The tower's earthquake-proof foundation was an accident, but engineers are interested in intentionally incorporating the principles of DSSI into their structures—as long as they can keep them upright at the same time.

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