Endless Stair launches in front of Tate Modern

Endless Stair, the Landmark Project for this year’s London Design Festival, sited on the lawn in front of the world-renowned Tate Modern, is a fantastic feat in architecture and engineering. Professor Alex de Rijke, director of dRMM, the architects leading the design for the structure, said:

“Endless Stair is a temporary sculpture designed to be endlessly reconfigured. The programme of modern art and architecture at the Tate, combined with the Thames panorama of London, provides a context to which dRMM’s Escher-inspired installation can make a distinctive contribution.”

Endless Stair is the first-ever such structure to use American tulipwood cross-laminated timber (CLT). The project, which was conceived in January 2013, is pushing the boundaries of hardwood in construction. Starting from a fantasy Escher-inspired drawing utilising, for the first time, tulipwood cross-laminated timber (CLT), dRMM and the engineering team at Arup have worked with specialist teams in Italy and Switzerland to research and test the strength of the material and develop the design to allow public access to the structure at this exciting cultural destination.

The staircase will be open daily from 9am to dusk from 13th September – 10th October. By night, the installation will be artistically bathed in light, evolving into an intriguing piece of art for passers-by to enjoy.

The Endless Stair is the second hardwood structure that AHEC (American Hardwood Export Council) has commissioned for the London Design Festival in collaboration with Arup. While providing a unique public experience to celebrate imaginative design in London, these collaborations have an important technical design legacy and challenge current thinking within the construction industry. In autumn 2011, Timber Wave, designed by AL_A, was gracefully located outside the Victoria & Albert Museum, showcasing the design and engineering merits of American red oak. Now, building on recent developments within the wood industry and innovations with the use of CLT, Endless Stair introduces the structural potential of American tulipwood CLT. The research and development process will be recorded in a project publication which will inform and inspire architects and engineers for years to come.

Chris Dercon, Director, Tate Modern said:

“Tate is delighted to support the London Design Festival with a location for Endless Stair and we look forward to the installation, on Tate Modern’s north landscape, being a major attraction of the Festival this September.”


  • American tulipwood (Liriodendron tulipifera) is one of the most abundant timbers in North America. It has excellent structural properties.
  • There is a total of 11.4 tonnes of tulipwood in the Endless Stair, but none of it will be wasted. The project has been designed to be reconfigured and re-used.
  • Cross-laminated timber is an increasingly popular construction material. It is normally made from softwood. This pioneering use of hardwood cross-laminated timber reduces the amount of material needed and the thickness of the elements.
  • The total length of all the panels in the endless stairs is 436m – equivalent to 4.5 times the height of Big Ben.
  • The Endless Stair has a total of 187 steps. The shortest route to the top is 48 steps.
  • Arup estimates that a maximum of 93 people will be on the Endless Stair at any one time.
  • The Endless Stair will be accessible during daylight hours. At night it will be lit with a lighting scheme by Seam Design.
  • Endless Stair will have a full environmental profile; all the material, transport and manufacturing processes are being recorded and Sustainability Consultants, PE International, will produce a report to identify the life cycle impacts. Endless Stair will be open to the public from 13 September – 10 October, located on the riverside of Tate Modern, Bankside, SE1 9TG