Escherian Stairwell and the Penrose stair

Here is a representation of an Escherian stairwell in the South of Paris.

Escherian Stairwell and the Penrose Stair

It’s one of the staircases along the “petite ceinture” (literally small belt). The belt is the former orbital railway line that the French Railways decided to close in the 1930s. Those of you familiar with Agatha Christie’s Mystery of the Blue Train know about that line. The Blue Train was circling on it around the City. Christie clearly described this in the book.

Escherian Stairwell - Petite Ceinture - Paris 14th district
Escherian Stairwell – Petite Ceinture – Paris 14th district

These stairs above reminded me of Maurits Escher and his celebrated stairwells. I couldn’t resist the urge to take a picture of it. I chose to treat it in black and white keeping the red as the selective colour.

A fascinating story is that of the Penrose stair being inspired by Escher’s impossible representations, which in turn inspired Escher who created renditions of the Penrose steps like the ones above or below.

Fascinating too is the fact that Escherian stairwells or Penrose Steps were used by Christopher Nolan for Inception in the following scene.

The illusion is perfect but how were they able to do that? Here is the explanation.

Some film student managed to make a viral video with a seemingly real Penrose Steps staircase. It was the subject of his thesis and attracted millions of views on YouTube.

But Captain Disillusion comes to the rescue and debunks that myth. Quite pedantically, I must say.

I have also taken other pictures (here and there) with impressions of Escherian stairwells.

About the Penrose stair

Here’s more about the Penrose stair borrowed from the Archdaily website

“In 1959, Lionel and Roger Penrose, a father and son duo of mathematicians, introduced the two-dimensional concept of the Penrose stair. Essentially, the way it reads is that it takes the traveler forever in an upward loop, unable to escape or be transported back down. These stairs depict the idea of something that violates basic Euclidian geometry- if you were to complete an entire loop on the stairs, you would be back at the same level which you started.”


Yann Gourvennec
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