There are countless innovations in the field of architecture that would not strike the naked eye and would remain significant only to those who understand the nuances of the science. Then there are a few that are so startlingly different from anything that’s ever been seen before, that even the most uninformed layman would sit up and take notice. That’s probably what happened when the first skyscraper sprang up and that’s certainly what will happen when the ‘stairscraper’ is constructed.
The Stairscraper is a radical idea for a residential tower, conceived by Alessandra Faticanti and Roberto Ferlito of Nabito Architects, a group based in Barcelona. They designed this tower as an entry to the Total Housing Competition 2010 in Abu Dhabi, and subsequently won the first prize. The tower, though innovative as a building concept, is essentially based on an age old idea: a spiraling staircase. In fact, it is an exact, giant-sized replica of a spiraling staircase, where each level or ‘step’ is an independent residential unit and is constructed further back from the previous one. This way, the roof of each house is the terrace for the one above. The houses spiral upwards around a central tower.
This concept provides a very unique and highly effective solution to several problems associated with urban living. People who hate the stifling and claustrophobic feel of being packed into an apartment and enclosed by concrete on all sides, will appreciate this refreshing alternative. Every floor has a private outdoor space, which can be converted into a garden and filled with small trees and plants. Besides, every home gets sunlight and fresh air and commands panoramic views. The tower, with its unique shape and narrow base, also allows sunlight to filter through to the streets.
One major limitation of this concept, however, is that each floor has only one residence. With such few houses to compensate the cost of property and development, the cost of each house will be forbiddingly steep and beyond the reach of a growing middle and upper-middle class. Consequently, this concept is not viable as a mass development solution in packed cities. However, its combination of individual spatial freedom and overall spatial economy makes it a real possibility for suburbs around the world, where land is not as expensive as city centers and population density is lower. Suburbs are currently expanding horizontally at an alarming rate everywhere, putting extreme pressure on rural land, local ecosystems and wildlife habitat.
How it actually works out is something one will only be able to judge once the construction of this tower actually gets underway in Abu Dhabi.