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Atmos
Digitally sensuous architecture in two of Alex Haw's residential staircase projects
by Leonora Oppenheim
on 11 February 2011
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Architect Alex Haw of Atmos may not be the first to use digital tools to craft seductively curving forms, but his recent staircase installations in two London abodes might be the most transformative. Each plays off each owner's interests to create organic asymmetrical forms that lend sensual drama to the spaces.

For a gardener's house Haw came up with a series of growing sculptural spaces that move seamlessly from exterior to interior, like the serpentine branches of a tree. Delicate branches flow throughout the house in an beautiful arts-and-craft style, albeit using modern technology to realize these complex forms.

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Describing the ornate process, Haw explains "The stair was entirely digitally fabricated using an intricate set of simply-cut but highly-detailed flat-pack elements, CNC-carving sheets of MDF and oak directly from our drawings." To make "elements that perfectly slot together like an architectural jigsaw," he and his team engraved "depths to further split structural strands into ever-finer lineaments."

The architect calls the structure a "sensualscape," citing the client's lifestyle and passion for plants as direct inspiration. "Our use of the garden as prime architectural generator tries to capture our clients' brilliant energy and to formulate this essence into built form and lived space, weaving a seamless landscape around the passage of light and the movement of its inhabitants."

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Making a spectacular case for the staircase as an opportunity for playful architectural and sculptural form, the structure at the Woven Nest apartment in North London brings beautifully simple contours to the home. The owners—an actress and musician—clearly embraced the expressive and sinuous Atmos style, at once decorative and minimalist, while always full of movement.

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Haw, a lover of florid prose as much as spaces, describes the central open stairs as having, "timber strands growing upwards toward the light, and unleashing delicate tendrils to frame each step—a single thin metallic line dancing across their lines to offer the lightest of additional support to the hands that seek it."

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Atmos' work, pulsing with life, pushes this exciting new architecture, drawing as much from structural exploration and the use of technology as from close human relationships and behaviors.

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