A new trend sees staircases being designed as multifunctional areas, creating new spaces that offer people the opportunity to do more than just travel from one floor to another.

The Living Staircase, designed by Paul Cocksedge, certainly provides more than a walkway.

Cocksedge modified a spiral staircase by expanding its diameter and removing the traditional central, load-bearing pillar to create new spaces at its centre. With one such space on each floor, the design provides potential for such features as a drawing room, a meeting place or a reading area.

paul cocksedge living staircase

The balustrade functions as a working garden and book shelf.

The project, commissioned by the owners of the Ampersand building in Soho, London, includes plants all along the balustrade. These plants are not intended merely as decoration but as a working garden, with each plant expected to be cared for by individual Ampersand occupants. In addition, the vegetation helps to naturally clean the air.

paul cocksedge living staircase

Communal spaces are located at the heart of the spiraling structure.

“The Living Staircase is actually a combination of staircase and room, of movement and stillness, vertical and horizontal. At every turn there is an opportunity to stop and look, smell, read, write, talk, meet, think, and rest. If a staircase is essentially about going from A to B, there is now a whole world living and breathing in the space between the two,” Cocksedge explained.

paul cocksedge living staircase

Diagram of the structural evolution of ‘the living staircase’

Aimed to meet the workspace requirements of London’s creative businesses, the Ampersand building will host the unique stairs at its centre and will also include green roof terraces on the southern and western elevations, bike parking and showers in the basement, and meeting/interaction spaces in the atrium.

Panorama House Moon Hoon

The multifunctional staircase created by Korean firm Moon Hoon.

The spiral design features three circular wooden platform spaces lined with rounded benches and bookshelves, which will function as social spaces, meeting areas or foliage-filled lunch spots when the weather outside encourages occupants to remain inside. Edible herbs and small fruit-bearing plants could be planted along the balustrade to provide a source of nourishment for employees during their lunches.

Panorama House Moon Hoon

Underneath the stairs there are workspaces and more access to the books.

In many private homes, the space around the stairs can be turned into smart storage areas, for instance by being converted into built-in lockers, while stair steps can be used as drawers or shelves. The innovative idea of designing staircases as multifunctional spaces can be applied in both commercial/offices premises and in residential buildings.

Panorama House Moon Hoon

The space also acts as a movie theatre for the family.

Korean architecture firm Moon Hoon designed a house with the stairs as the central part of the home, creating a multifunctional space that serves as the hub of activity. In this project, there are stairs for the adults, a slide for the kids, and book storage underneath every stair.

Under the stairs, there are work spaces with access to the books stored there, and the space can also act as a movie theatre for the family.