• Stainless steel rods provide deceptively solid support for a stair that seems to float in space.

    Credit: Neil Landino

    Stainless steel rods provide deceptively solid support for a stair that seems to float in space.
  • The stainless steel rods are joined by threaded couplings hidden within the thickness of the wood.

    Credit: Neil Landino

    The stainless steel rods are joined by threaded couplings hidden within the thickness of the wood.

“Compelling.” That’s how one of our judges characterized this stair, which manages to embody both reassuring solidity and airy weightlessness. Architect Mahdad Saniee specified beefy maple treads—each laminated from two boards, to resist twisting and cupping—and supported them at the wall with hidden steel hangers. “We wanted to make them look like they are floating,” he says, “so they sit away from the wall by about half an inch.” The stainless steel rods that seem to pierce the treads’ opposite ends are, in fact, joined by threaded couplings hidden within the thickness of the wood. The result is an assembly whose stiffness underfoot defies expectation, Saniee says. “It feels very solid, much more solid than average stairs.” With the rods working in tension from above and compression below, “it’s very hard for those pieces of wood to move.”

The interplay of wood and steel makes abstract reference to a Steinway concert grand, Saniee notes. “It’s taking elements of a piano and playing with them.” A gently curved soffit in the ceiling reinforces the visual rhyme. The jury admired the effect but was equally impressed with the technical acumen required to achieve it. “The rhythm established by the vertical rods sets up a rigorous discipline that works with the intricacies of stair dimensions,” observed one judge. “That’s really hard to do.”


Entrant/Architect: Saniee Architects, Greenwich, Conn.; Builder: Domus Constructors, Norwalk, Conn.; Living space: 4,480 square feet; Construction cost: $320 per square foot; Photographer: Neil Landino