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Please Hold the Handrail

Posted on Fri October 25th 2013 by Dan

Most people have seen the famous paintings by MC Escher with the mind-boggling and gravity-defying staircases and structures. But have you ever wondered what it would be like to experience it for yourself? Well now you can!

This year’s London Design Festival took place in September, featuring more than 300 exhibitions and events showcasing a wonderful array of talent from across the design spectrum.

Please Hold the Handrail

Among the features of this year’s festival was the Endless Stair installation. Inspired by the artwork of MC Escher, the piece features 20 interlocking staircases, put together to make a single, confusing structure. And the good news is, even though the festival has ended, Endless Stair will remain in place at the Tate Modern, and open to the public, until October 10.

The structure features a total of 187 steps, with a handrail running along the entire length of each flight of stairs. And holding on to the handrail is probably a good idea, given the mesmerising nature of the piece, as it’s probably quite easy to become disorientated as you try to find your way to what you think is the top!

In fact, despite its name, the Endless Stair does reach a sudden stopping point, with a platform at the top offering a spectacular view across the River Thames, looking out towards St. Paul’s Cathedral. Thankfully, there is a safety barrier to prevent visitors plummeting like lemmings off the end of the staircase.

The structure is made from 44 cubic metres of American tulipwood, weighing a total of 11.4 tonnes. The wood was supplied by the American Hardwood Export Council (AHEC) who helped create the piece alongside engineers Arup and architect Alex de Rijke, founder of dRMM Architects and Dean of Architecture at the Royal College of Art.

The steps are made from cross-laminated hardwood, often used for making skirting boards, providing a strong and stable base. The panels used to hold the handrail in place have been overlapped to give the Escher-esque optical illusion. The entire structure can accommodate 93 people at any one time.

The public can access the piece for free during daylight hours on the lawn outside the Tate Modern. It is closed to visitors at night but is spectacularly illuminated for public viewing.

So if you fancy being an active part of work of art, take a walk up the endless stair, but don’t forget to hold on to that handrail!