Helix Bound

Drawing Research

These drawings reconstruct a spiral stair at the Rinascente department store in Rome, Italy, designed by Franco Albini and Franca Helg in 1961. The stair occupies a spatial remainder: a void at the corner of the building whose oddly shaped perimeter sits between the geometric purity of the building massing and the site. A distorted helix, the stair is squeezed by the forces that are out of immediate sight and held up by a lattice-like arrangement of steel columns and beams, sometimes concealed, sometimes plainly visible. This ambiguous presence of the structural lattice denies a magical conception of a structure-less stair. The stair is in suspension, but it is not floating.

Published in Domus, June 2021, “The Power of Geometry,” edited by Tadao Ando