Tactile quality

The tactile quality of timber can be sensed from the lead-in pictures. It is a matter of form and texture which gives as much pleasure to the maker as to the user. The early twelfth-century primitive steps are solid in construction and contrast with the elegant form of the Miraculous Stairs (Figure 6.1 d), apparently built without nails by a travelling carpenter who came and went without being paid, another sample of devoted work. The nuns at the little church called Our Lady of Light Chapel, Sante Fe, still whisper under their breath that the itinerant stairmaker was called Joseph.

There is little doubt that the United States was provided with a great range of inspired work by Europeans emigres. The Gamble House, Pasadena (according to the guide book), owes the finishing work entirely to European skill. The aesthetic direction of the designers Greene and Greene may be Japan (Figure 6.1b) but the enveloping skill that assembled the handcarved stair encapsulates the joy of working in wood that is found in alpine chalets. Modern techniques with lamin-board and ply can be equally inspiring as portrayed in a spiral stair designed by Luisa Parisi (Figure 6.10a), an example of lineal sculpture in space and equal to the invention of Victor Horta (Figure 6.10b). The geometry of propped and suspended construction has intrigued many designers. An interesting concept is featured in the concluding illustration (Figure 6.11) which combines both features within one staircase. The traditional cased stair was removed in a cottage conversion and new framing made in the form of shelf construction.

Figure 6.5f Curved framing: Georgian elliptical stairs (from Newland, J., The Carpenter's Assistant, Studio Editions, 1990)

Ply facing to three sides of landing with lipped edges

Ply facing to three sides of landing with lipped edges

Figure 6.6a Sketch details for plywood framing
Figure 6.6b Sketch details for self-build stairs using hangers
Both Sides Curved Handrail Brackets

Figure 6.7a Principles of cased construction: Traditional detailing

Figure 6.7b Principles of cased construction: Cut tread nosing

Figure 6.7a Principles of cased construction: Traditional detailing

Figure 6.7c Principles of cased construction: Nosings for straight string stairs

Figure 6.8a Balustrade detailing: Vertical and horizontal rail balustrade
Reduction Oxide Diagram

Figure 6.8b Balustrade detailing: Steel rod supports to rails

Nosing to

Nosing to

Figure 6.8e Balustrade detailing: Figure 6.8c Balustrade detailing: Discrete handrail bracket Handrail bolts

Figure 6.8d Balustrade detailing: Proprietary systems for handrailing (reprinted by kind permission of Kensington Traders Ltd)

Ground fixing plate

Figure 6.8f Balustrade detailing: Universal balustrading. Hewi system using metal tubular sections and panels

Figure 6.8g Balustrade detailing: Eltham Palace. Details of remedial protection
Figure 6.8i Balustrade detailing: Aalto's anthropomorphic handrails (from Schuster, F, Treppen, Homan Verlag, 1949)

The lowermost element is a bookcase with stair treads to the back, whilst the suspended upper flight is made from balustrade boards extended downward to support the last few treads.

Figure 6.8b Balustrade detailing: Brutalist profile

Fair face brickwork/concrete

Fair face brickwork/concrete

face

Figure 6.9a Trimming details. String and plaster movement joint

Figure 6.9b Trimming details: Covermoulds
Figure 6.9c Trimming at landings and winders (from Barry, R., The Construction of Buildings, Vol. 2, Blackwell Scientific Publications, 1992)

Figure 6.11 Stair framing considered as furniture at Walmer 1975, Arcbitect: Jobn Bruckland

Figure 6.10a Lineal sculpture in space: Plywood stairs by Luisa Parisi (from Aloi, G, Scale, Ulrico Hoepli, 1973)

Figure 6.10b Victor Horta's handrail and newel post at his house in Brussels

Figure 6.10a Lineal sculpture in space: Plywood stairs by Luisa Parisi (from Aloi, G, Scale, Ulrico Hoepli, 1973)

Figure 6.11 Stair framing considered as furniture at Walmer 1975, Arcbitect: Jobn Bruckland

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