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Oculus staircase installed at Cardiff Innovation Campus

3 Sep 19 An unusual staircase, said to be the first of its kind in the UK, is being installed at Cardiff University’s new Innovation Campus.

Bouygues UK, main contractor for the Innovation Campus, is working with Taunton Fabrications to design and install the staircase, which is a sculptural, open staircase, offset between floors, travelling through a slanting void.

It is called an Oculus staircase because its design ‘depicts an eye that allows light to flood into a space’.

Designed by Hawkins Brown Architects, the aim of the Oculus staircase is to promote interaction between the occupants of the building. It starts at the ground floor as a social stair and forms breakout zones to each level. These can also be accessed by the adjacent lift core.

The stairs have been designed by Hawkins Brown Architects
The stairs have been designed by Hawkins Brown Architects

The Oculus staircase is set to be the showpiece of Innovation Central, where Bouygues UK and Cardiff University are transforming a former disused rail yard into a campus for social science-led research, student start-ups and studies of compound semi-conductors.

Justin Moore, operations director for Bouygues UK in Wales, and project lead on the job, said: “We are over the moon to be bring the UK’s first Oculus staircase to Cardiff. What’s so interesting about this building is that its layout is designed by activity rather than department – a venue like this requires very different environments, from quiet spaces for the secure data facility to a buzzing ground floor.

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“The Oculus is central to this as there are more private, secure spaces further away from the staircase and then open plan / breakout zones hugging it. It’s a fantastic, eye-grabbing design and we can’t wait to see the finished staircase in all of its glory.”

He added: “The principle of the oculus staircase makes it difficult to install as the stairs are not installed directly above each other, as it is for a standard staircase, but offset at each floor level.

“Several methods of installation have been reviewed over months to come up with the best way to safely and practically install the stairs. Initially, each stair was going to be installed after all the concrete floors were constructed by using spider cranes, but this meant that much of the floor area around the stair would be covered in propping delaying the internal finishing.

“Bouygues UK came up with a solution to install each stair after each floor slab was constructed and then construct the next floor above the stair with a cleaver configuration of temporary works designed by the stair contractor, Taunton Fabrications and the RC frame Contractor, 4D Structures. This is repeated on every floor. It is a complex and exciting construction project.”

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