When tasked with designing a staircase for a Manhattan townhouse, New York firm Dean/Wolf Architects eschewed typical wood and drywall for laser-cut and bent stainless steel. The design was limited by the available materials—stainless comes standard in 4-foot-by-12-foot sheets, and the brake press needed to bend the steel could only accommodate a 12-foot-wide piece of material. The solution was to limit the height of the structural members—which had to support two flights of stairs—to no more than 24 feet, or two of the 12-foot pieces, thereby limiting the number of joints.
Each piece—whether vertical support or horizontal tread—was first cut on a CNC laser-cutting machine to achieve a custom profile. The pieces were then bent on a brake press and joined for a zero-tolerance fitting in the fabrication shop. A custom joint was fabricated to extend the height of the vertical structure members, and Dean/Wolf spaced the joints so that each is located just below a tread on the upper flight of stairs, to impart a certain logic to the disruption. The vertical members were hung from the top-floor ceiling, under a skylight, and the treads were slipped into pre-cut notches in the vertical members and then fastened into place.
The jury reviewed numerous folded-metal assemblies and decided to award one “best-in-show” prize to represent that technology. In describing Dynamic Descent, juror Lauren Crahan said: “I think it’s a very successful project, and it’s documented really well.” Craig Hodgetts agreed, and remarked: “It takes the tension stair that one extra step, and transforms it.”