Beautiful ‘Staircase to Heaven’ Sculpture Is Actually a Mind-Bending Optical Illusion

Staircase to Heaven Sculpture by Strijdom van der Merwe

Are you afraid of heights? If not, you might be tempted to climb this staircase to the sky. South African land artist Strijdom van der Merwe is the creator behind Staircase to Heaven, an illusionary sculpture that looks like a set of endless steps that reach the clouds. However, once the viewer views the sculpture from a different angle, the visual trick is revealed. This piece is actually a vertical ladder that’s just 4.5 meters (14.8 feet) high.

Van der Merwe created a similar sculpture back in 2016, but the design was modified to create a unique piece for the 2021 Nanhui Art Project in Taitung County, Taiwan. The group exhibition included 14 artists who created public installations. Each piece was displayed along the natural landscapes of the four villages and tribes in Nanhui. The theme for 2021 was “Sicevudan Forward From Here.” Sicevudan is a Paiwan word meaning “source” and “convergence.” In this case, the artists explored how art has the power to encourage people to overcome their differences.

Van der Merwe partnered with Taiwanese artist Chou Sheng-hsien to build Staircase to Heaven. Working from Van der Merwe’s concept drawings and instructions, Sheng-hsien hand-built the piece from steel square tubing. The resulting piece encourages viewers to playfully interact with the structure and contemplate the clever optical illusion.

Check out Staircase to Heaven below and find more of Van der Merwe’s sculptures on his website.

Land artist Strijdom van der Merwe designed Staircase to Heaven, an optical illusion sculpture that looks like a set of steps to the sky.

Staircase to Heaven Sculpture by Strijdom van der Merwe

However, the piece is actually a vertical ladder that’s just 4.5 meters high.

Staircase to Heaven Sculpture by Strijdom van der Merwe

Strijdom van der Merwe: Website | Facebook | Instagram

My Modern Met granted permission to feature photos by Strijdom van der Merwe.

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Emma Taggart

Emma Taggart is a Contributing Writer at My Modern Met. Originally from Northern Ireland, she is an artist now based in Berlin. After graduating with a BA in Fashion and Textile Design in 2013, Emma decided to combine her love of art with her passion for writing. Emma has contributed to various art and culture publications, with an aim to promote and share the work of inspiring modern creatives. While she writes every day, she’s also devoted to her own creative outlet—Emma hand-draws illustrations and is currently learning 2D animation.
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