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Staircase Villa Mallorca, Mallorca

Three-dimensional, perforated copper staircase specially designed for a residential building

This singular structure consists of a three-dimensional, perforated copper staircase specially designed as the central piece of “Villa Mallorca”, a residential building in the south of Spain.

Beautifully illuminated without any visible fixings, the state-of-the-art structure was made using copper and a unique laminated wood panel.

The concept

Designed by Studio Mishin, the architect´s vision was to build an imposing perforated copper staircase at the heart of the building. The structure spans three floors and creates a visual link to the perforated copper panels throughout the interior and exterior of the building.

Arup was commissioned to complete this vision and deliver the specialist advice needed to finish the detailed design, engineering and construction of this unique proposal; as well as to develop a lighting design concept.

The start up

The design of the structure is based on a limited set of panel types and geometries installed in such a way that the connections are barely visible.

At an early stage, Arup noticed the existing wall lighting would not be sufficient and so proposed a new approach to provide both functional and decorative lighting design.

The use of backlighting with specially integrated fibre optics accentuates the perforations of the composite panels, and dramatic lighting from above reveals the texture and detail of the copper and laminated wood.

The result is a clad with almost 200m² of composite panel, including treated copper, bonded and structural timber with approximately 12,000 perforations made by a CNC water jet cutter.


As a few of the perforated copper panels have a recess depth against a solid laminated wood panel backing, Arup proposed to backlight these elements to reveal the geometry of the individual water jet cut perforations.

As side emitting fibre optics seemed to be the only possible solution due to the very strict maintenance issues, Arup proposed small, 4,5mm diameter PMMA to follow the solid elements of the panel and to create an evenly-lit backpanel. We also identified an accessible room for the projectors, which meant that the longest strand of fibre optics would be 12 metres.

Arup also created a shadow gap at both sides of the stair edges to further accentuate the shape of the stair treads.

Grazing light

The second lighting system accentuates the material properties of the stair through narrow beams, grazing light from above. When lit from above, the copper material is revealed.

Small, yet powerful LED spotlights with lenses to shape the beam of light into an elliptical shape accentuate the panels from above.

This creates a strong sense of texture and materiality that was highlighted through final on-site commissioning of the luminaires.

The two scenes can also be used together, but in terms of character the grazing light is bright and diffuse, while the backlighting creates a very subtle atmosphere, which works well with the view of the Mallorca coastline.

Integrated design

Arup developed a concept based on a limited number of panel types and interfaces allowing the entire structure put together like a huge jigsaw.

The principle build-up of each composite panel is a copper skin bonded to laminated wood; entirely perforated in some areas, the copper skin only in others.

To successfully translate the complex geometry into reality, allowing both a precise alignment of the layers and a reliable composite action between them, a new process for cutting and laminating the different materials was developed

The panels interlock with a delicate stainless steel frame. Due to the installation sequence and the implementation of hook-on details, all connections are invisible. The use of the maximum panel sizes, the reinforcement of the primary steel structure and the onsite measuring of in-fill pieces allowed keeping all joints at a minimum, emphasizing the sculptural quality.