NEXT Architects designed the stair for a local art plan, commissioned by the municipality of Barendrecht.
A n old steel ring lovingly wraps itself upon a grass hill in Carnisselande, a Rotterdam suburb in the Netherlands. Due to its unique construction, the form of the object is not easy to discern; every angle conjures up a new perspective with which the design is not only a contextual but also a very literal answer to the given frame of reference of the local art plan: an Elastic Perspective.
What it really is, is a large circular stairway leading visitors up to a height that permits an unhampered panorama of the horizon and the nearby skyline of Rotterdam. The pathway is a smooth motion, thereby reproducing the idea a heavy infrastructural surrounding of a ring road and tram track. While a tram stop presents the end or the start of a journey, the route of the stairway is endless.
Based on the principal of the Möbius strip, the continuous route of the stair is an illusion. (A Möbius strip is a one-sided surface that can be constructed by affixing the ends of a rectangular strip after first having given one of the ends a one-half twist. This space exhibits interesting properties, such as having only one side and remaining in one piece when split down the middle.)
“We are intrigued by the Mobius strip, by its characteristic of having only one surface, no top nor bottom. When used as a path, it suggests a continuity, but crossing that path is – at least physically – an impossibility. It’s that kind of ambiguity that we recognised in the inhabitants of this suburb: mentally they still feel very much connected to their mother town Rotterdam, but in daily life they are definitively disconnected.
With the Mobius strip stair we offer them a glimpse towards the Rotterdam skyline, but to continue their trip, they have to turn backwards, facing the context of their everyday life, Carnisselande. Rotterdam, by tram just minutes away, but in perception and experience tucked behind infrastructure and noise barriers; far away, so close,” explains the architectural firm.