Cylindrical and spiral stairs

Some of the most graceful forms of stair are the cylindrical and spiral. The primitive spiral is found in medieval castle towers where the stone steps rest one on top of another with the edges built into the surrounding walls.

Cylindrical stairs have been made as free-standing towers placed outside the building envelope. Some of the more ambitious designs permit horse and rider to ride up to the upper floors.

This is the explanation for the complex masonry construction at Blois (Figure 2.20) and which is built as a twin arcade to support the spiralling steps. It is said to have been influenced by Leonardo da Vinci.

Figure 2.14a Royal Festival Hall, London, 1951 (Sir Leslie Martin and Sir Robert Matthew): Key plan, foyer

Festival Hall Floor Plan
Figure 2.14b Royal Festival Hall, London: Key plan, stalls

A more ingenious solution inspired by the same artist connects the royal apartments at Chambord. The double circular stairs enable the royal path to be separate from the rest (Figures 2.21a and 2.21b),

Figure 2.14c Royal Festival Hall, London: Stairs in relation to reception

Figure 2.14d Royal Festival Hall, London: Stairs in relation to foyer but at the same time the open nature of the balustrade allows the courtiers to admire royalty as they pass. The magnificent stonework forms the central feature of the cruciform plan and makes a complete contrast to the Palladian ideas of hiding away internal stairs. Another visual advantage at Chambord is the celebration of the cylindrical shape above the roof level where a domed lantern of Italian proportions towers over the giant chimney stacks. The practical purpose is to

Figure 2.15b View of Scala Regia

Figure 2.16 Sainsbury Wing, National Gallery, London (Venturi)

Perspective stairs leading to Sainsbury wing entrance

Sainsbury wing

Metric scale

Figure 2.15a Scala regia at the Vatican, 1661 (G. L. Bernini) (from Schuster, F, Treppen, Hoffman Verlag, 1949). A plan light the double flight and the core of a plan that is over 42 m in depth. Doubling the flights is arranged with the simple expedient of stacking one above the other on 90° turns, the storey heights of 5 700 mm permitting this solution. The da Vinci connection with Chambord is derived from the artist's sketches of four flights nesting one into the other.1

A modern example of a circular stair tower is Zublin-Haus (Gottfried Bohm) which is placed in a large glazed court (Figures 2.22a and 2.22b). The towers are linked to the office blocks on either side by bridges. This independent vertical

Figure 2.15b View of Scala Regia

Figure 2.16 Sainsbury Wing, National Gallery, London (Venturi)

Perspective stairs leading to Sainsbury wing entrance

Sainsbury wing

Metric scale

Capitol, Rome (Michelangelo): View of main flight to the Capitol

Figure 2.17a The

Capitol, Rome (Michelangelo): View of main flight to the Capitol

Figure 2.17a The

Figure 2.18 Turret stairs at Chiswick House,

Figure 2.17b The Capitol Rome: Layout plan, first 1727-9 (Richard Boyle, 3rd Earl of Burlington) phase, 1540-1644, piazza paving (from Schuster, (from Summerson, J., Architecture in Britain 1530— F., Treppen, Hoffman Verlag, 1949) 1830, Penguin, 1991, © Yale University Press)

Figure 2.19a Hong Kong and Shanghai Bank, Hong Kong, 1986 (Foster and Partners): Escalators from street to podium

Plan Hsbc Building Foster Plaza
Figure 2.19b Hong Kong and Shanghai Bank, Hong Kong: Ground floor plan
Hong Kong Bank Plan

Figure 2.19c Hong Kong and Shanghai Bank, Hong Kong: Upper levels circulation is preferred by Michael Hopkins in both Bracken House and the IBM Headquarters at Bedfont Lake.

The circular stair often forms the core of the plan. At the Nestlé HQ, Vevey, Switzerland (Jean Tschumi), where the graceful stair is placed on the axis of the 'Y' shaped complex (Figures 2.23o-c), it is placed within a generous circulation space. Like the double stair at Chambord, the stair has two flights one on top of the other. In this form it was not necessary to plan the floor landings to arrive at a specific axis point. In the basement stair at Aarhus, Jacobsen has solved this problem by designing the last

Figure 2.20 External staircase tower, Chateau de Blois, 1515-30

Figure 2.21a Double cylindrical stairs at Chambord, 1519-47

Figure 2.20 External staircase tower, Chateau de Blois, 1515-30

Figure 2.21b Key plan (from Fletcher, B., A History of Architecture, Batsford, 1945)

few steps as a straight flight. This can only be carried out if there is sufficient headroom (refer back to Figure 2.6b).

The helical theme has been used in two imaginative interiors. First in historical sequence, the exit ramp from the Vatican Museum, constructed in the 1930s (Figure 2.24), where the diameter of the stairwell reduces as one descends. The second is the more significant application at the Guggenheim Museum, New York, by Frank Lloyd Wright, 1956. This surely is an inspired development of the earlier idea and transforms the gallery spiral into the major element of the art gallery (Figures 2.25a and 2.25b). Purists

Figure 2.21b Key plan (from Fletcher, B., A History of Architecture, Batsford, 1945)

Secondary stairs and lifts within office wings

lifts well in atrium

Secondary stairs and lifts within office wings lifts well in atrium

Figure 2.22a Zublin-Haus (Gottfried Böhm): Layout plan

Figure 2.23a Nestlé HQ, Vevey (Jean Tschumi): Ground floor plan (from The New Nestlé International Headquarters in Vevey)

Figure 2.23b Nestlé HQ, Vevey: Elevation
Figure 2.22b Zublin-Hans: Free-standing screen of lifts and stairs in central space

Figure 2.23c Nestlé HQ, Vevey: Lnterior

Figure 2.24 Exit stairs, Vatican Museum
Guggenheim Plans
Figure 2.25a Gallery spiral, Guggenheim Museum, New York, 1956 (Frank Lloyd Wright): View downwards

will complain that paintings need horizontal alignment in the surrounding spaces to avoid conflicting views. Those critical aspects are not paramount when viewing pictures at the Guggenheim; the even lighting and the spacious layout give a balanced quality to the exhibition space, without the sloping lines of the floor becoming obstructive. It is true that the modest scale of wall area prevents very large exhibits being displayed. A more serious criticism is the low concrete balustrade. It does not prevent vertigo, although placed in a sloping plane and angled away from the ramp.

Figure 2.25b Gallery spiral, Guggenheim Museum, New York: View upwards

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