Graftworks, a firm on the rise, designs an inventive staircase for a Chelsea apartment.
Jen Renzi -- Interior Design, 11/1/2001 12:00:00 AM
"We like to investigate sources outside traditional architectural practice," say partners Lawrence Blough and John Henle of Graftworks. "It's a great way to get into new territory." Case in point: to design a dramatic staircase for a pre-war Chelsea apartment, they plumbed sources as diverse as spider legs, bridge construction, hanging vines, tubular steel furniture, and even dew drops for aesthetic and structural inspiration.
The program entailed replacing the original staircase—an obtrusive, wood-and-plaster spiral structure that blocked two arched windows and created "a disjointed situation between the living and dining areas," says Blough—with a "floating" stair. Graftworks took the client's intriguing request "as a cue to push the design into something dynamic and experimental," going so far as to borrow technologies from the marine and aircraft industries to realize the final concept: a system of ceiling-mounted, high-strength steel cables supporting trapezoidal, clear glass treads. The treads, which have an acid-etched punto finish, taper toward the wall to appear almost precariously thin when viewed from the side. For a sleek bolt-free profile, the treads were bonded to the underlying steel-tube supports by means of a double-sided tape used in automobile production.
The diverse inspirations are happily synthesized in the complex but streamlined design. "We tend to like minimalistic things," says Henle. Blough elaborates: "We like to take the economy of minimalism, and push it a bit."