Umschreibung – Munich, Germany - Atlas Obscura

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A stairway to heaven, or to nowhere at all. 


Hidden within an office building in Munich, a staircase seemingly leads you up… to nowhere. “Umschreibung” is in fact not a staircase at all, but an ominous sculpture by Danish artist Olafur Eliasson.

The sculpture, which is made of steel and is over 30 feet tall, is a staircase in the shape of a double helix. The bottom of the steps has a small opening, so you can actually climb the stairs yourself.

“Umschreibung” is a German word which means “euphemism,” or “circumlocution” and the Umschreibung web site states that the title translates to “‘circumscription’ or ‘periphrasis’ –  a movement without destination, a space defined by motion rather than walls.” It’s not easy to know exactly what Danish artist Olafur Eliasson had in mind when he created his towering sculpture in 2004.

The sculpture is located in the middle of the courtyard of the KPMG building; in the midst of all that high-powered ambition and drive, perhaps it stands as a reminder that no matter how hard we work, we might all be going nowhere. Or perhaps the idea is more charitable than that. Life isn’t a destination but rather a continuous movement.


Know Before You Go

Inside the KPMG building courtyard. Access onto the stairs seems to be permanently restricted, but you can still walk around it.

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