Student Projects

Staircase to Nowhere

Authors: Jeff Robin, Andrew Gloag

Grade: 12th

Subjects: Art, Physics

Stairway to nowhere bridge
Stairway to nowhere scale models
Stairway to nowhere platform
Stairway to nowhere platform with computer stations
Stairway to nowhere diagram
Double Helices stairway diagram

By playing, design and collaborating students created staircases.

In the fall of 2015 our students designed staircases. They created scale models and full size “staircases to nowhere” around the school. Using play they will design a 1:10 staircase themselves. With a partner using trigonometry and CAD they designed and built a 1:5 scale staircase and with a party of 10 they created life size Staircases to Nowhere at various locations in the school. It is a conceptual art piece physics and math project.

The first day of class the students arrived and were handed a yardstick. In pairs, they went out and measured real staircases. They weren’t lectured to or tipped off to what the project would entail. All they were told was “go out with your partner and document a staircase.” Some suggestions on the piece of paper they were given said to look at the rise and run of the steps, the number of steps, the width and size of the steps, and to think about mathematical ideas they can derive from looking at these steps. They photographed, drew, measured, and documented staircases. Upon returning to class they created these posters that explain the staircases that they found, what made them work, and what was interesting and appealing about them.
This exploration gave the students a view into the vernacular of what they would be doing for the rest of the semester. They were going to use staircases to meet their learning goals. These goals were to constructively use play, planning, physics, and teamwork to develop an understanding of the physical world.

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The Bridge Across the Great Room, The Stack by the Door,Loft in the Art Room and The Elevated Desk are all art. The purpose of art is nothing other than showing a point of view. If art is purposeful, it becomes craft; however, these Staircases to Nowhere do not serve a purpose.

The Bridge Across the Great Room lets you off merely on the other side of the Great Room hallway. The viewer journeys across the great room six and a half feet above the floor viewing the school, people, and art from a new perspective. The purpose is seeing our everyday world from a different angle.

The Stack by the Door is a spiral staircase enclosed in a latticed box that incorporates repetition and design in a simple structure. Most of the wood is for design not function, and when the viewers ascend to the top, they are greeted with sensory bewilderment. It is quiet 15 feet in the air, it is warmer 15 feet in the air, and you see the 20 foot ceiling up close for the first time. It provides a new perspective on a familiar place.

Loft in the Art Room is a simple structure in a madhouse of a room. The crazy energy and frantic constructions are now visible from above. The view of the painting, sewing, cutting, nailing, and drawing are now seen from a new angle. Is it necessary? No. That is why it is art.

Finally, The Elevated Desk is truly pointless. The viewer ascends a 6 foot high staircase to a computer desk in the air. Individuals can do homework, edit a movie, email a friend, but no one will know they did it 6 feet higher than normal, except the viewer. Will this new perspective add to the viewer’s creativity when doing their computer work? Will this elevated position elevate the quality of their work?

I hope the viewer will enjoy these Staircases to Nowhere my students constructed. The math, engineering, physics, design (CAD), attention to detail and beauty, teamwork, conservation of materials, proper use of time, safety procedures, confidence built, and the unknown learning that went into this project should sufficiently explain why it is learning and why it belongs in a school. The new perspectives and views experienced while interacting with these pieces should justify why they are art.

Jeff Robin Art Teacher

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