Described by its designer as a “giant creature” that “snatches you, swallows you up and spits you out at the right floor”, the staircase in the new Paris office for the media division of LVMH, one of the world’s largest luxury companies, is a unique interpretation of the traditional structure.
French designer Ora Ito’s multifaceted stair, the “half-whale and half-snake” creature, protrudes gloriously throughout the centrefold of the building, completely holding the viewer’s attention. Right at the core of the office at 10 Grenelle in the city’s 15th arrondissement the soaring staircase pierces the heart of a spacious and luminous unit that spans four floors.
Ito cut and pieced together over 400 wooden slats to create this beautiful anthropomorphic gateway for LVMH, the parent company of brands including Louis Vuitton and Dior. The snake-like form now twists up the four-storey office – now home to Le Parisien and Les Echos – with a total of 429 wooden battens supporting the underside of the staircase to form the handrails on either side. Detailed with curved edges, the slats have been fixed together to generate wave-like indents across the entire sculpturesque arrangement.
“When I’m designing the interior, I always try to do it as a sculpture – as an art space and as an experimental space, where I can experiment with new ideas and new forms,” explains Ito. “In this case, the idea was to be very natural concerning everything, from the floor to the wall and the furniture.”
After discussing his motives for this eyecatching design, Ito explains how the entire process was formed out of a “crazy” idea that, ultimately, resulted in a staircase to match. “When I say crazy, it’s because it was crazy to do it,” says Ito. “If you had seen the face of the guy who was building the stairs – the first time I showed him, I think he almost had a heart attack. He was like: ‘This is not a staircase, this is huge!’ But my idea was to create a staircase that would withstand time.”
The entire framework of the design encapsulates a giant sculpture, where every angle holds a different point of view – although each is as interesting and bold as the next. For example, at the back of the staircase there’s a link to the lower facade that Ito says is just like “entering inside the bowels of a giant prehistoric animal”. This kind of language defines the project and space as a catapult for an individual outlook on design.
“There are some elements [of the design] that remind you of an explosion from the stairs, of this giant creature that goes anywhere in the space,” adds Ito. “It’s quite science fiction in the way it expresses this monstrous explosion.”
What’s particularly interesting is the relationship the staircase has to its surroundings. A mindfully serene office environment runs throughout the building – giving the phrase “the calm before the storm” a definitive meaning in the project.
Ora Ito’s snake-like slatted wood staircase has turned the new Paris offices of the media division of luxury brand LVMH into a unique sculptural experience