CanopyStair is a modular system of steps attached around a tree trunk that provides an easy way to experience life in the treetops. Matthew Stock reports.
Climbing trees might soon not just be the stuff of childhood memories - that's if these two designers have anything to say. They've created CanopyStair - a modular system of steps fixed around a tree trunk that provide an easy way for anyone to reach the treetops. It's the brainchild of Thor ter Kulve and Robert McIntyre, graduates of London's Royal College of Art. (SOUNDBITE) (English) ROB MCINTYRE, CANOPYSTAIR CO-DESIGNER, SAYING: "I'm really interested in canopies of trees; they're the least explored eco-system on the planet -- we know less about them than the deep ocean. And they are kind of magical worlds. It feels like entering into a little secret when you climb up into them." This 28-step prototype is their latest model, installed on a tree in the college grounds for the end of year exhibition. Just outside - a smaller version for visitors to try out. The young designers say that the tree's wellbeing was fundamental to the CanopyStair's design. (SOUNDBITE) (English) THOR TER KULVE (pron. Tor te Culveh), CANOPYSTAIR CO-DESIGNER, SAYING: "It's advised to not put them up in Spring, because in Spring the tree grows its new ring, it expands. But the other nine months of the year you can just have it up there and really enjoy the full seasons of liveliness up in the canopy." Securely attaching each curved step to the tree in a way that wouldn't harm it also presented a challenge. (SOUNDBITE) (English) ROB MCINTYRE, CANOPYSTAIR CO-DESIGNER, SAYING: "Nothing is nailed into the tree. So there's a tripod that we strap to the tree and the feet of this tripod are made of neoprene, so they mould to the bark. So once you've taken the step down, there's no sign it was ever up. And it doesn't bruise the tree underneath the bark." McIntyre and ter Kulve say each step is strong enough to take the weight of three men. To build a seven-metre-high staircase, they say, would take two people about three hours, and just 30 minutes to take down. After further developing their prototype, the pair plan to branch out and release CanopyStair commercially.