maber architects elevate museum’s entrance with design inspired by ammonites

Designs by maber architects featuring a stunning spiral staircase inspired by ammonites have transformed the entrance to a Victorian city museum.

Multi-award-winning architects maber were inspired in designing the staircase by the Fibonacci-sequenced spiral forms of ammonite fossils in the museum’s collection. Following this geometry, the stairway curves its way to the first floor galleries complemented by a new lift.

Skylights and upper floor windows have been restored as part of the makeover for the 170-year-old New Walk Museum in Leicester, allowing natural light to flood in to the revamped reception area.

Since a radical redesign in the 1970s, where the original grand staircase was removed, the route to the first floor galleries was illegible and uninspiring. The practice’s design re-creates the connection between the ground and first floors by opening up the floor over the entrance lobby. Into this new volume, the new curving staircase has been inserted.

The stair is realised as a simple, crisp structure of painted metal that appears as if folded out of the fabric of the museum itself. Its curved American oak treads echo the ammonites’ cellular structure and provide a warm counterpoint to the white shell of the stair.

Tim Boxford, Associate at maber, comments:

“We have truly relished the chance to work on this intricate project. What on the face of it seemed like a simple brief; to improve access and legibility between the ground and first floors, proved to be a tricky puzzle. We had to find a way of fitting a stair and lift into the existing fabric while improving head-room on the stairs and allowing as much light as possible into the space.  The inspiration for our solution, of a helical stair around three centres of rotation, came from looking at the ammonite fossils in the museum. After a good deal of collaboration and no small effort on the part of the contractor and stair fabricators, we have a new entrance to the museum that finally does justice to the  wonderful exhibits it displays.”

Sarah Levitt, Head of Arts and Museums at Leicester City Council, comments:

“Our staircase and lift at New Walk Museum are fantastic. The staircase is really beautiful and it has been great to watch all the people come in, stand and admire it. It has really opened up the area, creating a wonderfully spacious and airy feel – a fitting entrance to our wonderland!”