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Minimalist yet Magnificent, Making a Sleek Staircase

The Miller Living Room in the Learning Center / Photo by Bruce Forster

Minimalist yet magnificent.

That’s how Kengo Kuma describes the stepped seating and wooden “screen” inside the Miller Living Room of the Jordan Schnitzer Japanese Arts Learning Center.

Photo by Bruce Forster

Once inside the Living Room, there is wood everywhere you look. One feels enveloped by the wooden panels forming the ceiling, the stairway, and most of the walled planes.

The sleekness of the glass and wood is all part of the intentional design by Japanese architect Kengo Kuma. The design is also intentionally – precise.

“When the stairwell was first completed and brought into the Miller Living Room, we determined it needed to be sent back to the manufacturer. It was refabricated and brought back in order to meet our standard so there were no imperfections in the steel,” said Josh Faulkner, Cultural Crossing Project Superintendent with Hoffman Construction.

Photo by Bruce Forster

In fact Faulkner said an auto-body welding professional was then brought in to work on the metal components of the stairwell. The edges were smoothed out, just as they would be to a new car, smoothing and buffing.

Photo by Bruce Forster

The stairwell precision illustrates Hoffman’s commitment to precision and quality throughout the length of the Garden’s expansion project. Removing an entire staircase is quite the ordeal but also a testament, Faulkner said, to how far Hoffman and the Garden itself would go to ensure that the final outcome was as excellent as it possibly could be and as beautiful as Kuma-san had designed it.

Photo by Bruce Forster

“Many people might not know that although it is a giant staircase, it’s considered an aisle because of the stadium seating on the right. When the Garden has performances down at the tatami mat, the right side of that stairwell becomes bench seating. It’s brilliant,” Faulkner said.

With the warm weather here, we’ll be opening the window panels of all the buildings in the Cultural Village. Come take a seat on the beautiful new stairwell in the Miller Living Room. Take a deep breath, smell the fresh wood, and enjoy the sounds of Koto (harp) being played from the Cathy Rudd Cultural Corner.