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Floating Steps Turn Walking Upstairs into Choreography

No trudging allowed.


Painted steel, Larkspur. Jensen Architects.

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Laminated oak and patinaed steel, Noe Valley. Bach Architecture. 

Photo: Mariko Reed

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Limed white oak and blackened steel, Mission. Kennerly Architecture.

Photo: Joe Fletcher

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Walnut and painted steel, Los Gatos. Schwartz and Architecture.

Photo: Matthew Millman

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It used to be that trudging upstairs was an end unto itself. Not anymore. Now ascending the steps is a carefully choreographed event. “The stair is teleporting you, transforming your location,” says Frank Merritt of Jensen Architects grandly. Today’s floating feats of design—whether perched on a single spine, encased in glass, or twisting through space—meld principles of art and engineering. “The way the joinery is assembled is really like a fine piece of jewelry,” says Beverly Choe of Bach Architecture, describing the steel and oak stairway, above (slide 2), that she recently installed in a Noe Valley home. The boxy old staircase is a relic. “It’s not enough to be vertical,” says Collin Burry, principal at Gensler. “It has to be beautiful, too.”

Read more New Rules of Design coverage here.

Originally published in the October issue of San Francisco

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