An Endless Stair enhances the qualities of wood

An Endless Stair enhances the qualities of wood

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With the wood you can build anything: bridges, houses, skyscrapers and ... stairs that never end. Endless Stair - 'endless staircase' - is not just the name of the installation of wood designed by Alex de Rijke who found a place outside the Tate Modern, the modern art gallery in the Bankside area of ​​London. Endless Stair it is also the symbol of the unparalleled qualities of wood as a building material used for millennia and still partly to be discovered.

The wood it is one of the oldest building materials and it can be one of the most ecological. Where the felling of trees are regulated in a sustainable way, controls are effective and forest management is assimilated to real cultivation, the timber becomes a renewable source of building material and produces less CO₂ over its life cycle than concrete and steel.

But on the wood as a building material there is still a lot to know. Durable and robust, we said that with the wood you can build the most daring things. An example is the Endless Stair a temporary sculpture designed to be infinitely reconfigured from above which visitors can enjoy a breathtaking view of London and the Thames. The 'endless staircase ' it was designed by Professor Alex Rijke, director of the dRMM architecture studio. It will be open to the public from 13 September to 10 October 2013.

Characteristic of the Endless Stair is to be the first structure ever made with structural wood panels of American tulipwood (Liriodendron tulipifera, in Italian tulipier), produced in a specialized sawmill in Italy and assembled in Switzerland by Nüssli with certified timber imported from the USA. The structural panels in solid wood in crossed layers known by the Italian abbreviation X-Lam, or with the English one CLTcross laminated timber, have a supporting function in wooden constructions where they are used as walls, floors and roofs.

Endless Stair is the first example of using the hardwood in construction. Taking a cue from an Escher-inspired fantasy sketch and using for the first time solid multilayer wood panels of tulipier, the dRMM studio and the Arup engineering company worked with groups of specialists in Italy and Switzerland to study and measure the strength of the material and develop the project so that the public can safely access the facility.

THE structural panels in tulipwood they were produced in Italy by Imola Legno, a family company with a long tradition and the largest Italian importer of timber. Among other things, a company that is very respectful of the environment which, thanks to a system of photovoltaic panels and the combustion of wood processing waste, produces more electricity than it consumes.

The production of structural tulipier panels involves cutting, planing and finger-joint carving of the strips of solid tulipwood (one of the most common broad-leaved trees in America with excellent structural qualities) which are then joined together to obtain panels. Three of these panels, sandwiched together, crossed at 90 °, form a X-Lam panel.

This process allows you to use even the less valuable qualities of a wood widely available such as the tulipier. The material can be chosen so that the strips of wood aesthetically better-looking make up the external faces of the panel while those of lower quality form the padding of the sandwich. This means that, from a sustainability point of view, waste can be minimized by making full use of the wood in all its variations of color and grain.

There Endless Stair it has an important technical content and represents a stimulus to new ways of thinking for the construction industry. In the fall of 2011, the Timber Wave, designed by to frame the main entrance of the Victoria & Albert Museum, demonstrated the beauty and structural properties of theAmerican red oak (American red oak wood).

Now, based on recent developments in the wood industry and on the innovations brought about by the use of cross-layered structural panels, the Endless Stair shows the structural potential of the panels of American tulipwood (tulipier). Almost certainly the research and development process that led to the creation of this installation will be illustrated in a publication that will remain a reference for architects and engineers.


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