In July 2023, we looked into the origins of a picture that appeared to show a flight of stairs with no railing hugging the outside of a concrete building.
On Tumblr, one user asked, "What if someone locks both doors when you go outside lol?"
An ad on X, formerly known as Twitter, also promoted a link to a lengthy article on Kueez.com that featured the same picture. The ad itself, which started running on July 23, didn't show the photograph. However, the article it led to did.
We clicked on the link in the ad and landed on the article on Kueez.com. This article was originally published on Wallstoriez.com, where the writer had chosen the headline, "Funny Construction Fails That Are Almost Hard to Look at." This article appeared to have been written for advertising arbitrage purposes, which meant that the website's owner was looking to make more money from ads displayed in the article than it cost to place the originating ad on X (Twitter).
The article claimed that the staircase was a failure in construction, as the headline also mentioned:
Hands up if you have heart palpitations just by looking at this photo? We really don't blame you. The stairs on the side of this building look like something out of a recurring nightmare, and we honestly don't understand how anything like this could ever be built. Sure, we know that exterior staircases are important in case of a fire, but where's the handrail? And what about the rest of the building?
It would take us a whole hour to climb these stairs; if we could even make it to the top at all. We'd be hyperventilating, crying, and probably throwing up at the same time.
Cutting to the chase, a Reddit user named Master_Grievous pointed out the picture was real but the stairs were merely part of an art installation. The location of the staircase was the Kongresshaus in Biel/Bienne, Switzerland.
According to langbaumann.com, the stairs artwork was created by Sabina Lang and Daniel Baumann, known as Lang/Baumann (L/B), with Simon Lamunière credited as curator. The art piece was called, "Beautiful Steps #2," and was created in 2009 for, "Utopics, 11th Swiss Sculpture Exhibition."
As we read on the website, the art piece "plays a trick on perception," including an optical illusion achieved by building smaller doors and stairs than might be expected:
The congress building in Biel-Bienne plays a trick on perception: because the diminutive grid of its large glass front does not match the ceiling height of the floors, the building appears taller than it is—more like a skyscraper than its actual 50 meters (164 foot) of height. The building also features an unusual concrete structure that encloses one half of the volume like an oversize frame, leaving a gap on one side between itself and the building. On this pillar, almost three-quarters of the way up, an aluminum stair was attached, leading from one fake door to another around one corner of the structure. In keeping with the optical illusion of the building, the work was built to a slightly smaller scale than a normal door and stair. The slender sculpture plays with an imaginary functionality.
The description said that the doors were fake, which appeared to mean that there was no way to access the stairs from inside the building.
We reached out to the artists to ask questions and received the following information:
Yes, exactly, that is a work of art [by] us! And it is not functional.
It is constructed from aluminum and galvanized steel and it is not meant to support real people on the steps.
Nevertheless, it's built strong enough to support wind forces, and once in a while even a stork birds' nest.