|SQ. FT.||44,000 SQF|
The phrase “elephant in the room” gains new meaning, thanks to architect Cui Shu. Only this elephant is something that everyone is talking about. A staircase, elephantine in size and presence, even curves like a trunk as it winds through the 44,000-square-foot marketing agency. Connecting the top two of four levels, the stair fills an area that was complicated by existing beams. “We came to think of the trunk shape as a way to solve problems and organize the space,” Cui says.
It would be easy to read the name of the agency—mammoth in its own right at 300 employees strong—as his source of inspiration. The sweeping curves might also be influenced by his fondness for skiing and auto racing, with their spiraling dynamism. On a more architectural note, he cites a quote attributed to Antoni Gaudí: “The straight line belongs to Man. The curved line belongs to God.” To soften the stair’s hefty mass, Cui used natural, locally sourced bamboo. Despite a long history in Chinese architecture, bamboo is more commonly used today for scaffolding than for indoor surfacing. He chose the material here for its ability both to create sharp edges and to form smooth curves. The striking result might suggest up-to-the-minute trends in visual language. However, the bamboo nods to the millennia of Chinese designers who have come before him.