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  3. Detail in Contemporary Staircase Design

Detail in Contemporary Staircase Design

  • 01:00 - 29 November, 2014
  • by Paul Barton
Detail in Contemporary Staircase Design
Detail in Contemporary Staircase Design, Courtesy of Laurence King Publishing
Courtesy of Laurence King Publishing

If a building could be thought of as the architect’s manifesto to construction, then the staircase can be seen as the designer’s autograph – a signature flourish that can embody the entire statement of design for a building in a singular structure. Staircases can be flamboyant or understated in design, from refined to rustic in their construction and traditional to unconventional in the materials from which they are built. Whatever their direction, all of the staircases in this collection make an announcement about the building, whether they are intended to subtly blend in with their surroundings or to attract attention and inspire.

This book is a collection of 39 of the most exceptional staircase designs produced across the world over the last ten years. Detail in Contemporary Staircase Design features photographs of the finished staircases alongside technical drawings, illustrating the design and construction of outstanding projects ranging from intricate domestic creations to imaginative public and commercial features and dramatic artistic statements. Each building in this book is conceived by an architect whose all-encompassing vision drives and informs the configuration of each structure, provides a concept that gives direction to the building’s appearance and solutions to each design problem. Every featured staircase should therefore be seen as the distillation of each designer’s approach, encapsulating the motivation and direction of the entire building design. The staircase can be considered as a microcosm of the building.

Courtesy of Laurence King Publishing
Courtesy of Laurence King Publishing

Staircases have existed since long before the construction of multi-level buildings. They were not designed, analysed and calculated, or even planned, but were formed unintentionally, trodden into hillsides and worn away from stone pathways by processions of people making their way between destinations of different altitudes. Over time staircases have adapted and evolved, they have become technically advanced and have been built from every feasible material. Layouts and heights have varied, regulations have been adhered to and disregarded, until scale and reach are only governed by the environment and situation. Despite technical and material developments, staircases are still dictated by the combination of the following basic components:

  • Treads
  • A support structure/stringers
  • Top and base fixings
  • Balustrade
  • Handrail

At some point, each of these staircase elements has been manufactured from the full spectrum of materials available in the architect’s palette. From smooth concrete stringers, fully transparent glass treads and illuminated acrylic handrails to organic timber balustrades entwined around the stair. The full variety of fixing methods has been chosen to connect components together and secure the stair to the surrounding building’s structure. 

Courtesy of Laurence King Publishing
Courtesy of Laurence King Publishing

The most notable example of stair design that is defined by choice of materials would be the glass staircases that are installed worldwide in each of Apple Computers flagship stores. Not only do they serve the intended purpose of connection between levels but they create a buzz of appreciation from shoppers, attracting media attention and skillfully advertising and promoting the design credentials of the Apple brand. 

Courtesy of Laurence King Publishing
Courtesy of Laurence King Publishing

With the exception of the treads, architects and designers have chosen to discard individual staircase elements to produce a design that stands out from the norm: leave out a stringer to produce the look of a gravity defying cantilevered stair; remove the balustrade to create a skeletal design that may look dramatic but in reality would cause fear and trepidation with every use. Paring back essential stair components for the sake of producing a minimalist design that provokes an instant reaction may seem spectacular, but ‘minimalism’ is too often mistaken for ‘good design’ and it is the correct solution combined with the appropriate aesthetic that will provide admiration and long-lasting appreciation of the design.

Courtesy of Laurence King Publishing
Courtesy of Laurence King Publishing

Within architecture it is invariably the staircase that is employed to dramatic effect. Every significant church and religious building uses the staircase as a heavenly symbol of ascension, rising to become closer to God. Conversely, many pieces of art utilise the staircase as a motif to show the depths to which mankind can descend, as seen in the prison etchings of Giovanni Battista Piranesi. Plunging stairwells, intricate balustrades and sweeping steps; it is not by chance that the staircases in films such as Vertigo, Gone With The Wind, A Matter Of Life And Death and Battleship Potemkin are a main feature of the story as well as the set.

Courtesy of Laurence King Publishing
Courtesy of Laurence King Publishing

All of these directions, combinations and regulations can be succinctly encapsulated in detailed drawings showing the precise arrangement of the staircase design, its composition, construction and location within the building. Sizes and sections can be calculated, layouts can be proposed and revised and dimensions can be checked (and double checked!) against those on site. Design drawings are not only a pictorial representation of the staircase, they also act as a visual contract between the designer and the client; they are instructions to fabricators and guidance for contractors – they are the plan.

Detail in Contemporary Staircase Design is published by Laurence King Publishing.

We're giving away three copies of Contemporary Staircase Design! What is your favorite staircase design? Comment with a photo below (be sure to mention the name of the project and the architect) and you'll be entered to win. All submissions must be received by December 5, 2014. 

Cite: Paul Barton. "Detail in Contemporary Staircase Design" 29 Nov 2014. ArchDaily. Accessed . <http://www.archdaily.com/572385/detail-in-contemporary-staircase-design/>
Read comments

70 Comments

Torrestes · December 12, 2014

So who did win?

Labyrinth · December 05, 2014

Staircase of the Louvre Pyramid by I.M. Pei. A simple staircase that seems to defy gravity, complemented by the spectacular atmosphere of the glass pyramid.

Krystn Rilloraza · December 04, 2014

Spiral staircase in Vatican Museum in Rome by Giuseppe Momo

Mike D · December 04, 2014

Designed by Marco Dezzi Bardeschi, this glass staircase in Piazza dei Mercanti is quite the sight. Acting as an access to the Palazzo della Ragione (Palace of Reason), this glass and steel stair with its machine-like aesthetic wisely contrasts the heavy, opaque architecture that surrounds it. Definitely a must see in Milan, Italy.

For more info and pictures...

http://europaconcorsi.com/proj...

Alina · December 03, 2014

Antonio Gaudi, Park Guell. I love all of Gaudi's intricately detailed stairs, but this one is special. It combines the retaining walls, the plaza at the bottom, and the temple at the top of the stair into a perfect ensemble, with the Lizard statue as an accent point in the middle.

Ronnie Murray · December 03, 2014

St. Peter's Basilica - Staircase to the Dome's Cupola by Michelangelo & Giacomo della Porta
A surreal experience!

Ravi shankar · December 02, 2014

PROJECT : SDM Apartment,MUMBAI,INDIA.
FIRM : Arquitectura en Movimiento Workshop.

melondesign · December 01, 2014

Somerset House, Eva Jiricna

melondesign · December 01, 2014

Palácio do Itamaraty, Brasília by Oscar Niemeyer

Allegra Rosario · December 01, 2014

Looks like I forgot to log in with my submission.

I love this delicate staircase by Five AM in a Belgian House. It looks like a single piece of folded paper that seems too fragile to walk on. It is only attached by bolts into the walls without any handrail on the outside. This is such a fantastic example of a modern staircase.

Guest · December 01, 2014

I love this delicate staircase by Five AM in a Belgian House. It looks like a single piece of folded paper that seems too fragile to walk on. It is only attached by bolts into the walls without any handrail on the outside. This is such a fantastic example of a modern staircase.

Avleigh Du · December 01, 2014

Staircase of the Laurentian Library by Michelangelo--before he designed this staircase, stairs were viewed as primarily utilitarian.
Michelangelo really took the leap during the Renaissance and was the
first to break boundaries with staircase design--these stairs were
viewed as unconventional when it was first designed

Guest · December 01, 2014

Staircase of the Laurentian Library by Michelangelo--before he designed this staircase, stairs were viewed as primarily utilitarian. Michelangelo really took the leap during the Renaissance and was the first to break boundaries with staircase design--these stairs were viewed as unconventional back then

Kate Speidel · December 01, 2014

I love these stairs at Castelvecchio by Carlo Scarpa! Also, all of Scarpa's staircases.

Dixie · December 01, 2014

Hyogo Prefectural Museum of Art by Tadao Ando

Michele Barbone · November 30, 2014

Medir Architetti - House AM_60

cn · November 30, 2014

Longchamp's Flagship Store in SoHo, NY by Heatherwick Studio

Guest · November 30, 2014

Longchamp's Flagshipstore in SoHo (NY) by Heatherwick Studio

Jose · November 30, 2014

Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum
Renzo Piano Building Workshop

Tamara · November 30, 2014

Concept by EeStairs-bijzonder trap design.

Sarah G · November 30, 2014

Own House at Begijnhof Mechelen / bOb Van Reeth

Sarah G · November 30, 2014 08:33 PM

Picture:

Oscar Rojas · November 30, 2014

Vertebrae Staircase / Andrew McConnell ... a very organic design

Oscar Rojas · November 30, 2014 07:51 PM

hey! the image didn't upload

ELEM · November 30, 2014

institut du monde arab by jean nouvel

FERRARA · November 30, 2014

La brasserie Les Haras (Strasbourg, France) by Jouin-Manku

Guest · November 30, 2014

Brasserie Les Haras (Strasbourg, France) by Jouin-Manku

Aaron Marriott · November 30, 2014

Tate Britain, Millbank Project by Caruso St John Architects

Guest · November 30, 2014

Tate Britain, Millbank Project, Caruso St John Architects

Ronan Hunt · November 30, 2014

Totteridge Common Stairs, Stephen Wax Associates.

Guest · November 30, 2014

Escher, the one and only.

please please please we are working right now on a really boring staircases at the studio it will make our day^^^

yamushu · November 30, 2014 06:16 PM

and the image...

Guest · November 30, 2014 06:15 PM

Escher, the one and only.

please please please we are working right now on a really boring staircases at the studio it will make our day^^

Frederik Ellegaard Haukrogh · November 30, 2014

UN City by 3XN (photo by Adam Mørk)

Guest · November 30, 2014

The Water Temple in Hyogo, Tadao Ando

eva · November 30, 2014

Grove Park, Bel Phillips Architects

Richard Taylor · November 30, 2014

Stairs by EZZO (Restauração House)

Victoria Simpson · November 30, 2014

Red Hanging Stair by Michaelis Boyd. Based on an art installation, made from perforate steel

Mads Kjaer · November 30, 2014

Aarhus Town Hall by Arne Jacobsen and Erik Møller.

Damien Wilmotte · November 30, 2014

staircase by WA design in their project Folger Offices

Guest · November 30, 2014

Folger Offices by WA design

Nathan Peucker · November 30, 2014

Design Collective by architects Neri&Hu

Andrew Harvey · November 30, 2014

Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics
(Saucier+Perrotte Architects)

Guest · November 30, 2014

Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics
(Saucier+Perrotte Architectes)

Guest · November 30, 2014

Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics
Saucier+Perrotte Architectes

Marco Kuo · November 30, 2014

Caixa Forum by Herzog and de Meuron

Beatriz Antuña · November 30, 2014

Zaha Hadid, Galaxy Soho In Beijing
http://bartoszkolonko.ch/img/s...

Amer Abdal Habib · November 30, 2014

Everson Museum of Art, IM Pei.

Guest · November 30, 2014

Keeping it simple and classy. Casa Barragán by Luis Barragán.

Miguel · November 30, 2014

Schwarzes Haus by SoHo Architektur

TiffanyMA · November 30, 2014

The Gemini Residence staircases by MVRDV https://www.flickr.com/photos/...

James · November 30, 2014

Sackler Staircase at the Jewish Museum, Berlin

By Daniel Libeskind

James · November 30, 2014

Sackler Staircase at the Jewish Museum, Berlin

By Daniel Libeskind

Michael · November 30, 2014

Spiral staircase at the Art Institute of Chicago by James Watkins.

Jack Sivyer · November 30, 2014

Palácio do Itamaraty, Brasília.

Designed by Oscar Niemeyer

Suné Horn · November 29, 2014

HyeHwa Cultural Center, Daejeon by IROJE.

Guest · November 29, 2014

HyeHwa Cultural Center, Daejeon, by IROJE

Guest · November 29, 2014

Bookcase Staircase, London designed by Levitate

S.H. · November 29, 2014 11:06 PM

Levitate (a.k.a. Levitate Architecture or Levitate Architects)

Xiaolan Wang · November 29, 2014

I feel this is something worth mentioning. It is not an indoor staircase nor anything about detailing, but the whole project is pretty cool and I can imagine it could be an awesome experience. It's the Hyakudanen Garden in the Awaji Yumebutai conference centre, designed by Tadao Ando.

Guest · November 29, 2014

Wireframe staircase by Francesco Librizzi. Renovation of Casa C, Milan 2010

Torrestes · November 29, 2014 09:45 PM

This is the picture to go with it!

Guest · November 29, 2014

Staircase in SDM apartment made by Arquitectura en Movimiento Workshop.

Theo · November 29, 2014

The staircase at the MAMBA in Buenos Aires (in the old Piccardo Cigarette Factory). Having difficulty finding the name of the architect who did the staircase due to my lack of Spanish!

http://universes-in-universe.o...

Foxfall · November 29, 2014

Staircase in Lello & Irmao bookstore in Porto, Portugal. I am not sure who designed it.

Terri Boake · November 30, 2014 01:17 AM

That is the bookstore that J.K. Rowling used as an inspiration for Harry Potter sets!

LaloSalcedo · November 29, 2014

Aarhus Town Hall by Arne Jacobsen

Guest · November 29, 2014

Aarhys Town Hall stairs by Arne Jacobsen

Javier Villarroel · November 29, 2014

The 8-tallet in Ørestad by Bjarke Ingels

Metodija · November 29, 2014

Skopje City Mall by Zivko Popovski

https://scontent-b-ams.xx.fbcd...

Pedro · November 29, 2014

Thomas Heatherwick's Longchamp staircase, blends so nicely with its environment.

KV · November 29, 2014

public record office canton basel-landschaft designed by EM2N

Bobo_Kostadinov · November 29, 2014

Castelvecchio,Verona by Carlo Scarpa

Guest · November 29, 2014

Carlo Scarpa, Castelvecchio, Verona

Skanders · November 29, 2014

Kolumba museum, Peter Zumthor!

http://media-cache-ec0.pinimg....

Guest · November 29, 2014

Kolumba museum, Peter Zumthor

http://media-cache-ec0.pinimg....

Michael Ballesteros Bosworth · November 29, 2014

So many to choose from, but one that I've seen lately and I fell in love with is the Concrete Pavilion by Kairos studio.

Guest · November 29, 2014 08:30 PM

Antinori Winery, Archea Associati

···

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