Design

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A living staircase opens in London

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Generally speaking, staircases are more about the destination than the journey, little more than a convenient way of getting from A to B. London-based designer Paul Cocksedge, however, was inspired by the concept of taking a simple spiral staircase and transforming it into something more inviting and organic. Cocksedge and his partner Joana Pinho of Paul Cocksedge Studio recently completed the four-story Living Staircase in the Atrium of the Ampersand office building for creative technology businesses in Soho, central London. The staircase derives its name from the plants that grow up the sides of the spiral in custom built, continuous plant pots, and not only does it look the part, but is also features a library, tea bar and (of course) garden.

Paul Cocksedge Studio recently completed the four-story Living Staircase in the Atrium of the Ampersand office building in Soho

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The gorgeous staircase really dominates the open atrium of the Ampersand. Each floor features a unique circular social space dedicated to different social functions, which have been designed to encourage meeting between workers, the idea being that workers who are happy in each other's company are generally better at their jobs (and it's certainly hard to argue with that). On the first floor, a small curated library of books selected by the design team to reflect the ideas behind the staircase is provided for both inspiration and light entertainment. On the middle level hangs a lamp by German lighting designer Ingo Maurer and an ornate, steel chandelier with small pieces of paper hanging from it, which Cocksedge hopes workers will use to leave notes for each other. At the top meanwhile, a hot water machine accompanies a group of mint plants to encourage users to brew their own healthy cups of fresh mint tea! It's all very civilised. The plants are the real highlight of the piece though, and not only do they add a dash of much needed colour to the otherwise rather drab office space, but they provide another potential bonding experience for workers, as the office's denizens are being encouraged to keep them watered and looking their best.

Each floor features a unique circular social space dedicated to different social functions

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Cocksedge won the commission for the staircase in 2013 with an idea for a spiral stairway without a central column. He worked with engineering firm Arup to create the final design. Cocksedge is a multi-disciplinary designer with a vast and eclectic portfolio that includes everything from industrial design to furniture, lighting and large-scale installations. Other recent unique design projects completed by Cocksedge include The Vamp, a wireless device that plays music through vintage speakers, and Double O, a set of ring-shaped bicycle lights that slip over a standard bike lock.

Cocksedge won the commission for the staircase in 2013 with an idea for a spiral stairway without a central column

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Cocksedge said of his latest creation that he “Wanted to create a staircase that allowed moments where you could bump into someone or have a conversation with someone who you might never get the chance to talk to if you did move through the building by a lift of a conventional staircase.” He called the Ampersand “A unique space, because you can see the atrium from all of the floors,” and said that when they were first brainstorming ideas for the atrium, they were “Trying to think of something that could be placed there which would compliment the building but also add something.” He added that as there is (naturally) “Going to be technology everywhere” at the Ampersand, they felt that with the Living Staircase, they “Needed a burst of colour and needed to bring a natural element into it.” If the pictures are anything to go by, they certainly succeeded!

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Benjamin Hiorns is a freelance writer and struggling musician from Kidderminster in the UK.

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