Stairs can be boring and utilitarian, or they can be exciting, dramatic devices that make getting there half the fun. Dutch architects Zecc have just completed the Viewpoint Sint Jansklooster, a conversion of an old water tower that was a local landmark into an observation platform, almost 150 feet high.
The journey upstairs begins with a closed staircase that leads to the first floor on 4 m. height. Here you have arrived in a room that is 24 m. in height and houses a spectacle of old and new stairs. The new stairs that lead through the body of the water tower has been made of wood. This to on the one hand add a warm element that contrasts with the stark concrete walls of the tower. On the other hand it is a gesture to Nature Monuments by using a raw and unpolished natural material.
By adding the new route complementary to the old existing one, spatial interaction is created. Where the old stairs led up alongside the walls, the new stairs zigzag across the tower to reinforce spatial perception. The new stairs lead up to the level of the floor just below the immense concrete reservoir at 28 m. height.
At the top of the tower you have reached the look-out post. The 'lid' of the tank has been partly removed in order to create steps to offer more of an overview for groups at the look-out post. The transparent raster floor makes you imagine yourself to be right in the middle of the tank. Alongside the four small existing windows four large ones have been added that complete the view of De Wieden. The public makes an exciting and multifaceted journey upstairs and is rewarded with a beautiful view.
The architects write that this was a difficult job, "not in the least because of the procedural actions due to changing the zoning plan or eradicating any objections or doubts from the inhabitants of the surroundings, who often view the tower as their communal property." More at Zecc, found on Inhabitat.
Zecc are old hands at water tower conversions; here is one they turned into a multi-storey residence that will keep its owners fit. They also did a lovely chapel conversion. More water towers in the related links below.