Staircase options 421 Direct flights

The single direct flight provides the cheapest constructional solution. If laid

3.500 min

Figures 4.1e Generic pl«ns for houses: Side entry house

3.500 min out across the plan it will give the most compact answer (Figure 4.2a). This minimal aspect explains its use in cottage architecture where there are no halls or lobbies. In the simplest plans, the staircase would rise directly opposite the street door with the accommodation arranged to one or both sides. In these cases, living areas or bedrooms were used as 'through rooms' to keep the envelope walls to the absolute minimum, often as small as 30 square metres per floor (Figure 4.2 b).

In a wide-fronted plan the same direct flight set longitudinally incurs a 'wrap around' hall at each floor level. A slight saving on this extravagance can be achieved when the well is returned at first floor over the second riser, providing the required headroom of 2 000 mm is available (Figure 4.1 d). A solution by Walter Segal (Figures 4.2d and 4.2e) gives an oriel landing, which shortens the hall by 450 mm and also provides a sheltering porch at the entry. The single top step does not comply with current

National Building Regulations in the UK. Two steps do, and should give the necessary headroom. In times past non-conforming use with the meanest winders, coupled with 200 mm x 200 mm treads and risers, enabled Dutch designs to reach the ultimate levels of parsimony. The stairs in old Amsterdam houses have ladder-like steps more appropriate to ships than residences. This is the reason why old Dutch houses sprouted gable pulley blocks so that beds, chests and wardrobes could be hauled up externally and passed through upper windows. Scotland's 'turret' houses had the restriction of helical or multi-turn flights with a central pier. The problem was solved by making the large furniture on site, room by room, and leaving it there for posterity!

Winders to the mandatory taper are permitted and will reduce hallways by 900 mm, but it is better to keep these at the base of the stair for safety. It is worth remembering that a quarter turn of winders equals four treads and that the

(a) Ground floor (b) First floor

Figure 4.2a and b Generic plans for houses: Cottage plan

Figure 4.2c Generic plans for houses: Double-fronted Georgian plan

(d) Ground floor (e) First floor

Figures 4.2d and e Generic plans for houses: Turned double-fronted plan

(d) Ground floor (e) First floor

Figures 4.2d and e Generic plans for houses: Turned double-fronted plan

(f) Ground floor (g) First floor

Figure 4.2f and g Generic plans for houses: Central core plan

(f) Ground floor (g) First floor

Figure 4.2f and g Generic plans for houses: Central core plan arrangement can successfully reorder a hallway to give more space for furniture (Figure 4.3 b). For variations with winders refer back to the details in Chapter 2 (Figure 2.2). Purists will say that it should be possible to design without tapered or winding treads; pleasure put forward in relation to comfort and safety in use, particularly for the less physically able. The straight flight and a full-length handrail are much preferred by them to coping with awkward treads, which are too far from

Figure 4.3a London plan (based upon 7 Frith Street, Soho (cited by Ware in 1756 as the plan form of the 'common house')

newel posts or from an effective handrail (Figure 4.4).

There is little doubt that the straightforward layout favoured by Gropius and Fry at the Benn Levy House, Chelsea (Figure 4.5), provides an inspirational example from the 1930s. The fine detailing in steel, timber and glass has stood the test of time and illustrates the way generosity in plan gives rise to more comfortable proportions. The return landing at the base assists the spatial concept and shifts the main circulation from a collision with the open string. The open composition increases the spaciousness of the interior, unlike the traditional approach of infilling below the stairs with cupboards or a lavatory that brings the space back to corridor size. Another advantage in the detailing is the turned treads at the foot of the stair which divert the line towards the hallway.

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