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In Praise of Stairs

Fall 2016

ARCH201 / McGill University

Professor: David Covo

TA: Vedanta Balbahadur, Anca Matyiku, Dustin Valen



Le Corbusier designed Unité d'Habitation, a mixed-use residential building, in Marseille in 1947. Based on the idea of building a "vertical garden", Le Corbusier organized the rooms along a long corridor complemented by a garden terrace, a shop, and medical facilities. Unité d'Habitation is a brutalist architecture characterized by the material choice of rough cast concrete and the sizing of space is entirely based on his design philosophy explained in his book The Modulor. The site is a regular residential apartmenton the left side of the central corridor. 


My project partner, Browyn, and I were intrigued by the materiality of the topic and decided to take the opportunity and view the staircase as a sculptural object, claiming the space it occupies. The idea of the design is simple: by making the geometry of each wooden planks that connected vertically different from each other, we thus transforming the space under the staircase to create an interactive surface at a place that is easily neglected. The varying geometry of each individual pieces continues in a way to formulate a wavy contour on the back of the stairs from the side elevation without it being curved. Le Corbusier is a firm believer and advocator that architecture should be the machine of human living. This project thus also challenges Le Corbusier's belief by its expressive form.