by • 10 May, 2010 • Buildings, InspirationComments (3)10104

5 examples of inspiring and unusual use of stairs and escalators

Some Sort of Tupelo by Thomas Hawk on Flickr

Photo by Thomas Hawk on Flickr

Last weekend I worked on a project idea involving the creative use of stairs in a museum. Stairs and escalators are often not more than a connection between two galleries. There is, however, so much more you can do with them. Stairs and escalators are an amazing place to use new media to connect with your audience.

Why? Stairs and especially escalators are (with toilets and ticket queues) the only place where your audience will stay a while. They’ll have to go up (or down) anyway, so why not give them something to do or look at in the meantime?

Stairs as a gallery in the Denver Art Museum

Denver Art Museum by Throughnothing at Flickr

Photo by Throughnothing on Flickr.

In the Hamilton Building of the Denver Art Museum, a design by Daniel Libeskind, the wonderfully designed stairs are a gallery on their own. From every floor and everywhere in between they offer enticing new angles on the art on display and the building. The experience is difficult to grasp in photos, but a simple Flickr search gives a nice idea.

Stairs as an interactive playground in Sweden

I think the video says it all. Imagine how people will talk about this experience with friends and relatives. Imagine them wanting to experience the same thing. Imagine something like this in your museum. (I remember some amusement parks and lunar parks having similar constructions.)

Stairs to get you in the right mood in the Ruhrmuseum

Escalator at the RuhrmuseumStairs at the Ruhrmuseum

The Ruhrmuseum in Zollverein I visited recently uses stairs and escalators to get visitors in the right mood. First, there’s a long escalator taking you up and into the building. During the long ride up, I completely relaxed and got in the quiet curious mood perfect for visiting a museum. The stairs (designed by Rem Koolhaas) that take you into the galleries are so overwhelming they completely disconnect you from reality. A great starting point to enjoy a museum.

Stairs as an unsettling experience in Norway

The escalator above is in the Tunnel of Light in the Nydalen subway station in Oslo, Norway. I’ve not seen this one in real life, but the videos on YouTube give a pretty good impression. It might be a bit unsettling for a museum, but it takes little imagination to see a similar concept work to convey a more cultural or historical concept. Of course, as a piece of art it has more than enough meaning already.

Stairs as an exhibition space in Seattle

Balloon head hallway by goldlionpics on Flickr

Photo by goldlionpics on Flickr.

The escalator above is in the Seattle Public Library. There’re ballooning heads on display in the photo. It can be anything, though. Not long ago I had a brainstorm with a group of young museum professionals about how to better engage the audience. One of the unusual ideas was to force people past the exhibitions on an escalator, making sure they spend enough time with the works on display. Not an original thought, given the escalator above.

Stairs as a universal source of inspiration

Escher's Impossible Staircase in Lego


As a child Escher’s drawings, and especially his impossible staircases, sparked my imagination. Researching this post I realised stairs and escalators can still be a source of inspiration. Some last links I don’t want to withhold you:

If I missed anything important, please let me know!

Related Posts