Arup has challenged conventional design to create a unique, three-dimensional perforated staircase as the key centrepiece of a Mediterranean villa.

The global design firm was asked by Studio Mishin in 2010 to develop the intricate concept which would complete the interiors of the almost finished Villa Mallorca project in the South of Spain.

Spanning three floors, the striking staircase features a perforated continuous application of folded copper with no visible fixings.

To achieve the visually clean aesthetic, the structure was clad with almost 200 square metres of composite panel, including treated copper, bonded and laminated structural timber with approximately 12,000 perforations made by a CNC water jet cutter.

The state-of-the-art staircase has been constructed in the centre of the luxury building and is intended to create a “visual link by the use of perforated copper panels throughout the interior and exterior of the building.”

three dimensional staircase

Copper clad staircase, Villa Mallorca

Early on in the project, Arup identified the need to highlight the complex geometrical features of the staircase through the application of lighting design. The existing wall lighting was not sufficient to achieve both a functional and decorative result, and so backlighting and ceiling lighting was installed to illuminate the texture and material properties of the copper and wood.

“Light reveals materials and plays a key role in creating an atmosphere, and this project was an interesting challenge on both levels,” explained Emily Dufner, Arup’s lighting design leader for Germany.

Specialist advice was sourced to finish the detailed staircase, and Arup´s Materials Consulting and Lighting Design teams in Berlin began to work on “the practicality of realising and building the copper cladding.”

An innovative collaboration between STUDIO MISHIN,  Architectural Bureau’s Sergey Mishin and Katya Larina, and technical architects Daniel Llofriu Pou, Alberto Arguimbau successfully brought the copper concept to life.

three dimensional staircase

Copper and laminated structural timber materials

“The development of the perforated timber-copper sandwich panels required close collaboration with the manufacturers and a series of samples and full scale mock-ups were essential to develop a solution which was technically feasible and supported the design intent of a seamless and continuous copper skin,” said Arup materials practice leader for Europe Jan Wurm.

“The detailed design of the complex structure is based on a limited set of panel types and interface geometries to allow for a consistent appearance and an efficient procurement. The installation is sequenced in such a way that the structural panels interlock with each other and a delicate substructure to minimize visible connections.”

three dimensional staircase

Staircase with no visible fittings

The staircase design has demonstrated the design possibility associated with copper which is undergoing a period of revival in contemporary architecture and design.

“Our general design approach for all new projects is to discover what is unique about a project and try to further enhance those unique qualities in a beautiful way,” Dufner said.

While copper has been used as a key design element for centuries, the material is now being recognised for its environmental credentials as a natural material that is eminently recyclable and and for its ability to form into complex shapes, allowing the rules of geometrical design to be defied.