Endless Stair by Alex de Rijke

Landmark Project

14 — 22 Sept 2013

Architecture / Landscape, Materials

Tate Modern




Endless Stair saw London Design Festival reviving its longstanding relationship with the American Hardwood Export Council (AHEC) in a playful, yet technically ambitious public project installed with the powerful backdrop of one of the city’s best-loved landmarks, Tate Modern.

Installed outside Tate Modern, the towering structure invited visitors to climb and explore a series of 15 Escher-like interlocking staircases made from a prefabricated construction using 44 cubic metres of American tulipwood donated by AHEC members. As a viewpoint, Endless Stair provided breathtaking views along the River Thames. The complex construction was designed by Alex de Rijke, Co-Founder of dRMM Architects and Dean of Architecture at the Royal College of Art, working closely with engineers at Arup. De Rijke described timber as ‘the new concrete’, predicting that it will be the dominant construction material of the 21st Century. Tulipwood is a plentiful and sustainable American hardwood export, and was composed for the first time as cross-laminated timber (CLT). CLT is a method of exploiting the structural properties of timber to create panels that can form buildings quickly, efficiently and sustainably. Endless Stair pioneered the use of a hardwood species, which is inherently lighter and stronger than its softwood equivalents. Endless Stair was part of a series of innovative projects that AHEC commissioned for London Design Festival including the Timber Wave, designed by AL_A, which stood outside the main entrance of the V&A Museum in 2011; Sclera designed by David Adjaye in 2008; and The Smile by Alison Brooks in 2015. Supported by the American Hardwood Export Council (AHEC) and Arup with further support from SEAM and Lumenpulse.