The fundamental objective for the Tesseract Stairs was to challenge the socially-accepted normality of using a staircase only for vertical egress. The concept of non-linear egress was developed and became a major design motivation, as it theoretically eliminates a prescribed use of the stairs, allowing the user to traverse and explore a staircase as they see fit. By nature, a “tesseract” is a four-dimensional object consisting of cells rather than simple surfaces, which we saw applicable to our concept of non-linear egress as it relates to architectural design. Our focus was to integrate program and non-linear egress into the geometry of the tesseract, so it could become a potential place for social engagement and self-reflection. The tesseract concept manifested itself into an octahedron cell configuration, further explained in the “Design” section. For a creative work environment, we believe the design of seating areas and places in which social interaction may occur is absolutely crucial for a healthy work ethic. The final design of the Tesseract Stairs takes precedent from the socially-engaging interior environments of Silicon Valley tech companies, such as Google and Linkedin. These tech company headquarters offer a spectrum of different collaborative space types and configurations, which stimulate interaction among their employees, and allows for a very progressive work environment. However, small companies may not have the luxury of operating out of an enormous campus-style building, where these types of collaborative spaces are pre-integrated. The Tesseract Stairs offers an opportunity for smaller offices to increase their volume of collaborative space by adding complexity to the interior environment, in order to facilitate random interaction among their employees. Benches, micro-theater style seating, and pockets of space to stand and converse were integrated into the Tesseract Stairs design in order to allow employees to leave their desks and explore, if only briefly. Alternatively, these same spaces can be used for collaborative impromptu business meetings, and random one-on-one chats about new ideas, all possible while simply traversing from one level to the next. The Tesseract Stairs compresses the collaborative ethos of Silicon Valley into an efficient, affordable, and simple design solution for a new architectural paradigm of non-linear vertical egress.
The primary design parameters which the Tesseract Stairs was created upon were geometric configuration, spatial/volumetric quality, and sound attenuation. By experimenting with modular geometric solids and hedron cells, we discovered that the octahedron shape offered optimal configurability, as well as spatial quality when assembled into a cellular pattern. Octahedron shapes can be easily connected to each other from any congruent face, which provides a perfect solution to build vertically, horizontally, and diagonally in three-dimensional space. The hexagonal faces always exist at a 45 degree angle, providing an optimal surface for a staircase, or left open to allow for horizontal egress into an adjacent octahedron module. The modules are fastened together at the vertices of the steel frame via bolt connection. When modules are fastened together, the Tesseract Stairs forms an octahedronal space frame, utilizing the exterior wood panels to combat torsion and shear force. The wood and glass panels, stairs, benches, and planter components are modular as well, allowing for reconfiguration of the components within each individual octahedron module. This configurability allows for a dynamic spatial environment, which can be periodically changed in order to best suit the needs of the users. Program can be added or subtracted from the Tesseract in any direction, filling previously unused space with functional program. Once assembled, the Tesseract stairs offers both internal and external sound attenuation within a busy work environment. The wood panels are constructed with sound-absorbing rigid insulation sandwiched between wood veneer, facilitating a quiet internal environment within each octahedron module. Once the octahedron modules are assembled into a cellular pattern, the entire staircase attenuates sound externally; between a noisy open workspace and a quiet conference area on the 2nd level, for example. The modularity of the Tesseract Stairs is scalable and adaptable to any pre-existing architectural condition, such as a small open-loft type space (as depicted in our renderings), or possibly even a larger-scale exterior condition on the side of a multi-story building. The modular 4-dimensional design of the Tesseract Stairs yields limitless possibilities for adaption to pre-existing architectural conditions.