Fact check: Did a ‘Pinoy architect’ create an endless stairwell?

June 14, 2022 - 11:19 AM
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Escherian Stairwell
Screengrab from Michael Lacanilao's YouTube video "The Escherian Stairwell" on April 30, 2013 (Screengrab from YouTube/Michael Lacanilao)

CLAIM: A video that claims that a Filipino architect designed a stairwell in Russia that supposedly makes a person end up where they have started has been circulating online.

Copies of the video are being shared on YouTube and Facebook which shows a clip with the text: “Amazing stairwell in Russia (shocking face emojis) Pinoy architect ang may gawa (shocking face emojis)”

It shows a man going up a staircase and then emerging on the other side of the stairwell instead of disappearing from a normal point of view.

“The stairwell, designed by Filipino architect Rafael Nelson Aboganda, was built in 1968 and has been wowing RIT students ever since,” the narrator claimed in the video.

It also shows a girl going up the stairs to disappear from the man’s eyesight, only to emerge on another set of stairs and then meet the man again.

RATING: The claims in the video are false.

Facts 

The stairwell is not designed by a Pinoy architect.

The circulating footage is a 2013 YouTube video created by Michael Lacanilao, a film and animation graduate student from the Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) in New York, as part of his thesis.

Lacanilao’s thesis‘ abstract notes that his work is “a 3-stage web campaign that combines narrative filmmaking, documentary, social media and analytic philosophy into a creative exploration of how the academic world might respond to the apparent manifestation of a logical contradiction.”

“It is meant to be a fun, engaging, and powerful cinematic experience that challenges audiences to think,” it said.

A 2013 article on RIT’s website also tackles the video which is Lacanilao’s attempt to create a myth.

“Is it possible for a staircase to violate the laws of physics and basic logic by looping back into itself? This is one of the questions Michael Lacanilao, a film and animation graduate student at RIT, examines in his video series and Imagine RIT exhibit The Escherian Stairwell,” it said.

Snopes, a fact-checking website, says that the “Escherian Stairwell” was “named for the Dutch graphic artist M. C. Escher, famous for his ‘impossible reality’ artworks, such as the never-ending Penrose Stairway.”

Illusions Index says that the figure of the Penrose stairs was created by Lionel Sharples Penrose, a British psychiatrist, geneticist and mathematician, and his son Sir Roger Penrose, a British mathematician, physicist and philosopher of science.

But the website said that it is “impossible” for it to exist “because in order for it to exist rules of Euclidean geometry would have to be violated.”

Snopes said that Lacanilao’s video “was a bit of trickery created through the use of deceptive camera angles, careful editing, and digital effects.”

It also featured a video that described the intention behind the campaign.

Meanwhile, a cursory check on Aboganda yielded a Facebook account.

Aboganda claims he studied Bachelor of Science in Architecture, senior year at the National University Philippines. He is now a chairman of Likhaan Agglomerates, Inc., described as a diversified business organization engaged in creativity and innovation consultancy in all its form. 

Why it matters 

The video on Facebook has garnered 498,000 likes, 6,500 comments and has been shared 67,000 times.

It is also being shared on various platforms such as TikTok and Pinterest where the stairwell is dubbed “magic stairs.”

It continues to fool social media users, with some commenting:

“Filipinos are really amazing,” a Facebook user said with clapping emojis.

“WOW. AMAZING PINOY ARCHITECTURE,” another online user wrote.

“Proud to be Pinoy,” a different commenter said.

The video was also posted on the Facebook page “TMG Trending Videos” with false claims in the caption.

(Screengrab by Interaksyon from Facebook)

 

A 2013 video of the staircase dubbed “magic stairs,” uploaded by ACN Residual, likewise added the false claim on its upload. It has so far earned 569,988 views.

Aside from these misleading videos, a 2018 article titled “Mysterious stairs that will keep you up at night” also listed the Escherian Stairwell and claimed it was designed by the supposed Filipino architect Aboganda.

This story is part of the Philippine Fact-check Incubator, an Internews initiative to build the fact-checking capacity of news organizations in the Philippines and encourage participation in global fact-checking efforts.

Interaksyon is part of #FactsFirstPH, a multi-sectoral initiative promoting truth in public space and demanding accountability for falsehoods. For those interested to join the initiative, email [email protected]

Interaksyon is also a founding partner of Tsek.ph, a collaborative fact-checking project for the 2022 Philippine elections. It is an initiative of academe, civil society groups and media to counter disinformation and provide the public with verified information.