‘Reading Steps’ (2016)
Late 19th C Spiral Staircase & Steel
4.2m x 2.4m
Price on Application
A 19th Century structure removed from context & re-imagined. A spiraling staircase – a fragment of a coil – standing in half shadow. It’s no longer a means to go somewhere, it has become the somewhere. Once held up by four walls, it is now re-mastered and self-supporting. Leavened by gravity and steel, heavy as the shadows.
The oak and pine is pitted with a century and a half of daily rituals. It was discovered as a crumbling splinter of its former self. Careful, painstaking repairs have paved the way for its new function.
A discrete yet bold intervention – a seat in place of steps, where dark cushions encourage you to pause. An old thoroughfare is now a place to stop, and read. In solitary contemplation, or intimate recital.
The Reading Steps disorder the previous function, and create a new calm certainty. It’s about the beauty of a quiet disruption.
( and why is she a she? )
She’s definitely a she. Hard to say why, but whilst working on her a sort of trust was developed – an unspoken trust – as often happens when we work on something. Like the relationship between a human and an injured animal. A shire-horse fallen into a ditch, something powerful brought low. This huge structure needed careful handling. She was badly damaged from years of neglect. Beautiful and elegant, but unstable and dangerous.
She – the stairs – trusted us to help her. She consented to risky but necessary surgeries.
We removed each tread – leaving the staircase even more skeletal and fragile – whilst we performed intimate repairs on each individual tread. Each crack and fibre out of place was doctored with glues and resins – strengthening and nourishing the wood back to health. Thousands of careful injections by hand – one by one into tiny holes and cracks. Her handrail, twisted out of shape, was wrestled back into place.
The most risky part was the physicality of the hoist, restoring it from horizontal back to its vertical self – like raising a mast. At times – with many hands climbing all over and underneath her – it felt as if we were working on a huge ship.
And an engineering challenge too. How to replace the security of the four walls that once held her in place? How to make her self supporting, and give her the freedom to stand where she wants? The steel base and legs are elegant but solid additions. Engineered to give discrete solidity. The steel seat is not hidden – it boldy joins the staircase – not hiding the intervention.
But a staircase to nowhere will have no function. And this staircase should not be relegated to an exhibit just to be looked at. It has a new calmer and more reflective function. She won’t be trampled up and down, in haste. She has become the destination. Somewhere to stop, and read.