proposal for the rietveld academie
transplanting the external fire esape in the middle of the main stairwell
A structure occupying the negative space of the stairwell (the eye of the staircase) seeks to bring awareness to the qualities of that space. The staircase leading nowhere in the staircase leading everywhere in the school, introduces a static element that functions completely differently from the existing one, even though they are essentially two staircases.
The transplantation of the fire escape questions the status of the Rietveld building as an architectural monument, and the wish to preserve the building as it was at a fixed point in time. The action also plays with the single scenario function of the staircase which only provides an exit from the building in case of an emergency, and is otherwise without function. Putting the most and least frequently used staircases next to each other would highlight their individual qualities.
Alternatively introducing a scaffolding staircase has similar functions, but is more temporary and contemporary. Only using the existing elements of the building creates an ambivalence in terms of a timeline, where the scaffolding would be of contemporary safety standards and therefore time-stamped.
Scaffolding in an architectural monument suggests change - most likely restoration, but seeing scaffolding near a historical building often triggers the fear of demolition or disrespectful refurbishing. The scaffolding would hopefully introduce a feeling of temporality to the seemingly permanent staircase, and increase the appreciation of the space and its unique qualities - qualities that are often neglected in modern buildings where staircases are compressed in favor of the elevator or fitted with suicide nets and other safety features.
The main staircase in the rietveld building connects the buildings four floors and in doing so acts as a mediator between years, departments, students, teachers and visitors. It is the most social space in the rietveld, a school with several large open spaces. The large ”eye” in the staircase means that you can spot people before encountering them, preparing you for the inevitable interaction.
Gerrit Rietveld Academie 2018
Guided by Henri Snel