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Spiral Staircase

Architectural Placemaking

In 2020 we began designing a dramatic centerpiece for a high-end residence on a private island in the British Virgin Islands. The goal was to link the open-air ground floor with a second-story viewing platform. Our design intent was to create a dynamically illuminated staircase that combines cutting-edge materials and advanced world-class lighting content.

Tropical ipe hardwoods were combined with a bamboo-polymer hybrid diffuser to blend the sculptural form with the natural look and feel of the rest of the property. The subtle diffusion layer creates a softer illumination from the LEDs when lit, and fits seamlessly with the appearance of bamboo inlay within the ipe hardwood when at rest. The fabrication design was done through Rhino with Grasshopper parametrics allowing the team to create intricate digital fabrication and wiring diagrams during the design process.  The fabrication team used augmented reality to previsualize the complex geometry and ensure constructability and ergonomics were spot on.

The project teams worked closely throughout the project to best implement the structure and the embedded LEDs. The result is a seamless aesthetic, with no visible wires, connections or hot spots behind the diffusors.  This allowed for a seamless on-site installation of the pre-fabricated pieces, wiring the electronics, and programming the final installation.

A staircase to the sky leading to a view of the sea


We partnered with the studio Digital Ambiance, who developed a custom addressable LED product and drivers made specifically for this project.  It was designed to be IP68 submersible and features a “failover” circuit preventing a single LED failure from disrupting the data signal.   Advanced volumetric control software gave us the ability to paint lighting patterns in 3-dimensions during content creation, which was a main consideration from the very onset of the project.  The lighting designer specializes in advanced volumetric lighting, and over the years we have developed a whole set of tools that allow patterns to be created across 3 dimensional canvases such as this.   The result is a volumetric screen that can play compelling content in 360 degrees around the staircase enclosure.

The end result of the project is a stunning work of art, a beacon of illuminated art on the estate, and a seamless work of magic within the built environment.

Photos and video courtesy of Digital Ambiance.

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