Multiturn flights

The purpose of multi-turn design may well have been defensive. The approach stairs in citadels like the Alhambra are strategically planned for right-handed swordsmen fighting in defence. The attackers unless left-handed were under a disadvantage at every landing. The saving in space is another reason for multi-turn flights.

In the Renaissance such layouts arranged with upward approach enabled centrally placed stairs to be the main instrument in ordering plans with primary, secondary and minor circulations.

Double-return versions allowed the axis to be turned left or right, forwards or backwards. A prime example is the

Figure 2.6a Aarhus City Hall, 1937-42 (Arne Jacobsen and Eric M0ller): Contrast in forms

Palazzo Municipio, Genoa, which has two prinicipal stairs. The first is used to separate the raised ground floor from the street. The second has the crucial role of turning the circulation back towards the important accommodation around the upper gallery (Figures 2.11a and 2.11b).

Figure 2.6c Aarhus City Hall: Glazed lifts

Figure 2.6b Aarhus City Hall: Curving stairs serving basement

Figure 2.7a Asplund's formal stairs at the Courthouse extension, Gothenburg, 1937

Figure 2.7a Asplund's formal stairs at the Courthouse extension, Gothenburg, 1937

Figure 2.7b Detail of secondary stairs

Figure 2.7c First floor plan

Figure 2.8 Oslo City Hall, 193 7-50 (Anstein Arneberg and Magnus Poulsson). View of gargantuan steps within inner hall

Figure 2.9a Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, Harvard, USA, 1984 (James Stirling, Michael Wilford and Associates). A diagram

The Augustusburg at Brühl has a magnificent double-return stair as a centrepiece; the flights are in fact unequal to give a greater perspective to the upper ceiling. The piano nobile embraces the superbly scaled flights from both directions (Figures 2.12a-d). The open loggia at ground floor forms the carriage entrance with a sequence through the various courts, while the secondary openings lead to offices and service stairs. Neumann explored similar ideas in the entry hall at the Residenz in Würzburg, where the greater length of the 'return' flights enables the axis to be turned towards the central space (Figure 2.12b). It is a pattern used in many custom-made nine-

Figure 2.9b Stair and light well

Figure 2.10 Entry to Clore Gallery, London, 1986 (James Stirling, Michael Wilford and Associates)

teenth-century art galleries, where the first floor gallery space requires a formal approach.

One of the most interesting derivations is the design made by Semper for the Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna (Figures 2.13o-c). This is archetypical of the central space stair applied to a large public building and certainly equal to palace planning of the Baroque era. The double courtyard arrangement has the main entry placed at right-angles through the centre wing; the spatial effect is enhanced by spatial volumes that penetrate to the upper storeys. The vestibule is domed with a mezzanine balcony to glimpse the first and second floors, arch ways open to the principal stairs which in turn lead the visitor to the rear of the entry hall. This ultimate landing is the starting point for a clockwise route through the impressive collection of Renaissance paintings. The mezzanine landing has return flights for the second floor rooms. There are screened service cores that link basement to roof level and that today contain passenger lifts for the disabled. The placement of volumes that open one to another within the centre wing is masterly and enables the building interior to be revealed in perfect order. One is never lost as to which direction to pursue.

A modern example of multi-turn stairs is the Royal Festival Hall, London, 1951, where the ground floor vestibule is an open space, with bars, cafés and exhibition spaces. The grand dog-leg stairs take visitors up on either side of the auditorium to the various galleries. The landings at each level overlook the fantastic window with views of the Thames and the riverside walk along the South Bank (Figures 2.14a-d).

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