The staircase as a monolithic organic form

Herzog & de Meuron: Küppersmühle Museum in Duisburg (D), 1999

Systems in architecture

Fig. 36: The seemingly organic stairwell

Fig. 37: No joints are visible

As an expressively designed vertical edifice, the external stair tower with a pentagonal plan shape forms a deliberate contrast to the modest statements of the exhibition rooms of this converted industrial building.

The cantilevering fair-face concrete stair construction winds its way up between the angled external walls around a seemingly organic stairwell. This space has been given its homogeneous character by ensuring that no joints are visible between the various concrete pours.

The external concrete walls were constructed first before casting the concrete balustrade and the stair flight in one operation. This meant that an L-shaped cross-section had to be cast. However, that made compaction very difficult because it is impossible to pass a poker vibrator around a 90 degree angle. The surfaces affected, i.e., the steps and the floor, were subsequently covered with a similarly homogeneous terrazzo finish. The vertical boards used as the formwork for the balustrade and the boards for the soffit formwork enabled the construction joints, which are essential over such a length of stair flight meandering over four storeys, to remain concealed. The top of the balustrade was the only surface that had to be finished (in this case ground) subsequently.

All the fair-face concrete parts have a red-brown colouring and hence reflect the colour of the brickwork of the existing building. The terrazzo finish likewise makes use of the same colour, which results in a monochromic space and enhances the monolithic effect of the construction.

Fig. 38: Section

Fig. 39: Plans of ground floor, 1st floor and 2nd floor

Fig. 39: Plans of ground floor, 1st floor and 2nd floor

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