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The Duke of York Steps Lift Project

This is an experimental project by Matthew Lloyd Architects for the London Festival of Architecture.

A lift has been erected for the duration of the festival to span one of the three flights of the Duke of York Steps. Although this means there is still no step free access between Waterloo Place and St James's Park, it highlights this access problem and raises some important questions.

The Duke of York Steps are important in their own right. People meet on them and occasionally picnic on the landings. Providing step free access to one of the landings will allow wheelchair users to experience the Duke of York Steps as a place to be rather than an obstacle. They are a hugely sensitive setting. Getting permissions to erect the lift has been a major exercise in determining who the many stakeholders are, and then working with them. Architect’s notes are below.

Information on the Duke of York Step project as kindly supplied by Matthew Lloyd Architects:


Water Powered Passenger Lift


Designed by Matthew Lloyd Architects


Lift made by T Good & Sons steel fabricators and Capital Models


Structural engineering by Price & Myers; site services by Stonewest; mechanical & electrical installation by Jamie Adam; safety consultant Gordon Sellers; perspex fabrication by Haymar Acrylics; water pump by Whale Pumps.


In collaboration with RIBA, Architecture Inside Out and Shape, the Royal Engineers as concept engineers, and The Royal Parks as land owners.

An experimental project created for the London Festival of Architecture 2010 to respond to its theme of 'the Welcoming City'. This intervention addresses the challenge of equal access at historic sites, at the same time demonstrating innovation through the use of alternative energy sources.


This installation is an access project. We have created a prototype wheelchair lift that demonstrates how equal access can be given architectural prominence. The design team has worked throughout with disability rights campaigners to ensure that what we have produced is relevant and worthwhile. What you see here is a unique approach to improved access: a water-powered wheelchair lift that takes centre stage on this historic site, whereas most lifts of this nature are hidden away, sidelined. The Royal Parks (site owner), and the City of Westminster (the local authority) have kindly supported us in our quest to create this event. We have chosen the Duke of York Steps as this site is

Grade 1 listed, giving it the highest level of historic and architectural importance. This demonstration model is for one flight of steps. A final version would obviously cover the complete staircase.


This lift touches lightly: it has no mechanical fixings to the old stone work and indeed could easily be moved to another site. The use of water and solar power (although for this prototype, the solar panels are dummies) removes the need for a mains power supply. The workings of the lift are visible, so people can decipher how it works. It is our intention that the lift will be an enjoyable attraction to the general public amplifying the issue of equality, inclusion and access. We have also tried to create something that is architectural, equal perhaps to these surroundings. This is a prototype, a radical vision of equal access, which we hope one day will be developed into a fully sustainable lift installation.



The image above is an early simulation of what the lift would look like on the steps. Immediately below is this lift as just installed. Next is an exploded drawing of the lift. Below the architect’s notes are a section and plan of the lift site. All images kindly supplied by Matthew Lloyd Architects.

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