Stairs Designed to Keep You On Your Feet

tom mayne stair new york photo

Iwan Baan

We noted earlier that if stairs are designed to be inviting, then more people will use them. This is good for our health as they are great exercise, and good for saving energy as they use little, compared to escalators and elevators. Where most stairs are hidden behind fire doors, dreary concrete lined uncomfortable spaces with harsh lighting and often alarms on the doors to keep people out of them, Architects are beginning to give stairs the attention they deserve.

Thom Mayne designed the stair at Cooper Union in New York; Alex visited it and noted that "movement by foot rather than by machine also encourages a "vertical campus" feel and the kind of lively social connectedness not typically found in tall structures."

The system not only saves energy and costs (as much as 10 percent of a typical building's energy use goes into elevator use), but it cuts down on the foot traffic that forms around elevator doors, and encourages healthy physical activity. It's a nice antidote to New York's elevator culture -- one that may have, ironically, begun at Cooper Union: it was Peter Cooper's 1853 design for the original building that included the world's first elevator shaft.

More at 41 Cooper Square: Thom Mayne's Brazen Stair-Obsessed Marvel

DNA Stair from Studio P-H-A

DNA stair of the week photo

This stair is in the Institute of Molecular Genetics for the Czech Academy of Science, and fittingly, is modeled after the form of the DNA double helix.

The designers, Jan Sesták and Marek Deyl of Prague's Studio P-H-A, wanted to create a bright central meeting space. Sestak told Architectural Record: "The chief aim was to bring daylight as far as the ground level" of the six-story interior, Sesták says, adding that in the absence of more formal social spaces, daylight would induce resident scientists to gather in the generous stairwell."

Stair of the Week: DNA Stair from Studio P-H-A

Alberto Mozó's Demountable Spiral

mozo stair of the week photo

Alberto Mozo's stair in the BIP Building is made from sustainably harvested timber, with identical and interchangeable pieces; it is designed to be demountable.

Stair of the Week: Alberto Mozó's Demountable Spiral

New York Times Building

new york times stair of the week photo

Lloyd Alter

The corner of a building is usually given over to an office for some big honcho; at the New York Times building it is given over to an open communication stair that serves that one purpose: to help people work together and communicate better.

Stair of the Week: New York Times Building
Next: Residential Stairs