When it comes to staircase construction, Dolce & Gabbana is seriously ahead of the curve. So much so, that we’ve awarded the brand the Best Ascent award in the 2018 Wallpaper* Design Awards (see W*227)Two superior spiral designs connect the six floors of the Italian label’s recently renovated 2,350 sq m Old Bond Street boutique in London.

The first enclosing design is crafted using an artisan inlay technique, which sees Spanish Nero Marquina and Chinese Bianco Laser marble slotted together with millimetre precision, like a monochrome jigsaw puzzle. ‘We were really trying to go one step further with the material,’ says the French Tokyo-based interior designer Gwenaël Nicolas.

The newsstand cover of our Design Awards 2018 issue

‘What’s interesting about this staircase’s design is that it makes you feel like you’re travelling in an elevator,’ adds Nicolas. ‘It wraps around you and the store becomes invisible.’ Movement is integral to the overall design of the space, which boasts all manner of marble and granite, including Brazilian Copacabana, Indian Black Lightning, Chinese Panda White and Vietnamese Bianco Cristallino, with veins resembling the rushing flow of water in a river or a stream of molten lava. ‘The stones really propel you forward.’

The second staircase connects the top three floors of the brand’s private salon space. It is constructed from a monochrome patchwork of the marble and granite found throughout the boutique. Each slab was cut to create a mirroring effect, so that the staircase looks identical when viewed from above or below. ‘This project allowed us to try out some amazing technology, and to bring craftsmanship to life,’ says Nicolas. ‘Six months ago I didn’t know these techniques existed.’

To do full photographic justice to this elevating marble, we needed an architectural photographer from the top drawer. And if they had a particular interest in the most luxurious limestone, then all the better. With perfect synchronicity, Hélène Binet, just about the most in-demand photographer of beautiful buildings in the world, has been shooting in Italian quarries, fascinated by the accidental architecture created by carefully cut stone blocks. ‘They are just so vast in scale,’ Binet says. ‘And when you get there, you enter these cathedrals with floors and walls and ceilings.’

Binet shoots on a large-format film camera, mostly in black and white. She often goes in close, creating remarkable compositions of spaces and shadows and textures. Her shots for us at the Dolce & Gabbana boutique create dramatic swirls and slabs unfeasibly stacked. Patterns miraculously repeat on one staircase, while on the other, each marble block is a universe unto itself, with strange clouds and constellations. ‘It was fascinating to see this collection of different marbles,’ Binet says. ‘It’s really rare and beautifully done.’

As originally featured in the February 2018 issue of Wallpaper* (W*227)