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Step up, Toronto

March 7th, 2017

Get the scoop on the AGO’s iconic, Frank Gehry-designed spiral staircase.

One of the most iconic—and instantly recognizable—architectural features of Transformation AGO, a redesign by Frank Gehry completed in 2008, is the Allan Slaight and Emmanuelle Gattuso staircase. The Baroque-inspired staircase starts from the Level 2 walkway in the heart of the Gallery, and extends through the glass ceiling linking to Level 4 and 5 of the Contemporary Tower. The central location of the staircase helps visitors navigate the Gallery, often using it as a meeting point or a guide to the entrance and exit of the Gallery.

In designing the signature staircase, Gehry wanted to create an experience for visitors by connecting the Gallery internally and externally. It links the past and the present by connecting the old 1920s building with the new building, extended by Gehry in 2008, bringing together the classic and contemporary spaces. The staircase lets you see the Gallery from different vantage points, and once you climb the 138 steps to the top ­– it’s not that hard – you’ll enjoy an exceptional view of the cityscape.

The Douglas fir-clad sculptural staircase was made with romance in mind. Gehry purposely designed the staircase to be narrow at some points to create a space where people might bump into each other or perhaps fall in love. Although we haven’t heard of any staircase romances (yet), it is a photo shoot favourite for newlyweds who get married at the AGO.

The staircase was the last and one of the most anticipated spaces to be open to the public during the Transformation AGO project. Photos from the construction of the staircase reveal some of its most beautiful parts of this architectural wonder.

On your next visit, experience the Gallery in a new way as you climb the staircase and catch a breathtaking view of the city from Levels 4 and 5. Become a Member and visit the AGO for free all year long. Have you snapped photos of the staircase? We’d love to see them! Make sure you tag @agotoronto on Twitter and Instagram.

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