The Living Staircase
by Paul Cocksedge


This spiral staircase conceived by London designer Paul Cocksedge will feature balustrades overflowing with plants and circular spaces where employees can take time out from their work.

The Living Staircase by Paul Cocksedge

Paul Cocksedge designed The Living Staircase for Ampersand, a new office building in London's Soho dedicated to creative businesses.

The Living Staircase by Paul Cocksedge

The design concept is for a staircase that is about "more than a means of moving from floor to floor". By widening the diameter of the spiral and excluding the central column, there will be enough space to create three circular platforms that can be used as social spaces.

The Living Staircase by Paul Cocksedge

"The Living Staircase is actually a combination of staircase and room, of movement and stillness, vertical and horizontal", said Cocksedge.

The Living Staircase by Paul Cocksedge

"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," he added.

The Living Staircase by Paul Cocksedge

Plants and herbs will be sown into the tops of the balustrade. The hope is that employees will turn the greenery into a working garden, adding ingredients to their lunches and making fresh mint tea.

The Living Staircase by Paul Cocksedge

Here's a project description from Paul Cocksedge Studio:

The Living Staircase

Paul Cocksedge has been commissioned by Resolution Property to design a central feature for Ampersand, the state-of-the-art creative office development in Soho, London.

At the project's heart are the people who make up the Ampersand community and so the question was: how can a staircase become something more than a means of moving from floor to floor?

The Living Staircase by Paul Cocksedge
Concept diagram

By examining the structure of a staircase, it was discovered that by expanding the diameter and by removing the traditional central, load-bearing pillar, a new hidden space was revealed at its centre. As you emerge onto each floor, you can now enter the centre of the spiral and into social spaces devoted to a specific activity: a place to draw, to read a novel, to pick fresh mint for tea.

Everything about 'The Living Staircase' relates directly to the people using it, including the plants along the balustrade, which are not intended as merely decoration, but envisaged as a working garden, each plant cared for by individual members of the community.

  • jklsdaf

    Too bad the rest of the building is as cold and soulless as my mother-in-law… The staircase makes up for a lot though.

  • Rui Pedro

    It’s all very pretty and appealing, but I just have one question… How does the water enter and leave when watering the plants?

    • JuanGalicia

      I´ll assume it works with a series of small compartments that hold a small amount of water at a time.

  • happycamper

    So after you’ve removed the central structural support, what holds the stairs up?

    • amsam


    • TFO


    • Yip

      An anti-gravity pulsator concealed in the ceilng space, ovbiously ;)

  • twitch

    Just because you have a zillion flower pots doesn’t make it “living”. Yawn.

    • Rebecca

      Love the way it encourages public engagement in very human activities. It will be great to sit in this big living spiral. I wonder if it’s open to the public?

  • wich

    When cactus is the handrail at 900mm high.

  • daniel brown


  • Daniel

    Great idea.

  • Shelagh Nation

    Which is right. I’m partially disabled and need the handrail to be just that – a grab rail.

  • It’s illegal in some countries to build staircases without handrails. Will the whole structure be made from wood? O_o

    One day, these plants will go on strike for being taken where they don’t belong.

    After putting trees on top of renderings of every high-rise building in recent years, now architects/designers are putting leaves wherever they see a “space”.

    Quite frankly, interactive spaces are far more “living” than boring spaces with plants/trees in/on them… IMO.

    This is just a “nicety” for the eye, I dont see how practical it actually is in real life.

    But nice thought tho.