Erste Kirche Christi Berlin Treppenhaus

Stairs, staircase, stairway, stairwell, and flight of stairs are all names for a construction designed to bridge a large vertical distance by dividing it into smaller vertical distances, called steps. Stairways may be straight, round, or may consist of two or more straight pieces connected at angles.

Special stairways include escalators and ladders. Alternatives to stairways are elevators and inclined moving sidewalks.

25 interesting staircases – While staircases are considered as the fundamental means to move from one point in a building to another, they become incredibly interesting when appearance and form are made as important as the function. There are countless museums, shops, and other similar building all around the world that have interestingly designed staircases.

Escalators are basically just long conveyor belts. They have rotating chains that pull a set of stairs in a constant cycle, creating a moving staircase.

  • Central-Mid-Levels escalator system in Hong Kong is the world’s longest outdoor escalator system with a total length of 2,600 feet

What’s the problem?
Ataircases (video 3:41) Whether it is for a house or a commercial building there is a lot of engineering that goes into the design and building of the staircase.

Rolltreppe Zeche Zollverein
  • Ask – There are many different kinds of staircase designs. Which will work best for the location? How much space is available? Will the stairs be next to a wall? Does the staircase have to change direction as well as go up?
  • Imagine – Looking at existing staircase designs helps suggest possibilities. Should the staircase be solid and enclosed or open and floating? Should the shape be angles or curves?
  • Design, Build – For a specific staircase design there are many more decisions. How many steps are needed? How much rise for each step? What materials will be used? How are the railings attached?
  • Improve – Some staircases designs are dramatic as well as functional. Others are practical – wide enough to accommodate moving furniture for example. Others have rises and treads that are well matched and are comfortable to walk up and down.

That’s engineering

  • tread – the part of the step that is stepped on. It is constructed to the same specifications (thickness) as any other flooring. The tread “length” is measured from the outer edge of the step to the vertical “riser” between steps.
  • riser – the vertical portion of the step between steps. This may be missing for an “open” stair effect.
  • total rise of the stairs – the height between floors (or landings) that the flight of stairs is spanning.
  • slope of the stairs – the total rise divided by the total run. It is sometimes called the rake or pitch of the stairs.

Engineering ideas

  • rise, slope, rake, pitch, height, flight

Do It
Challenges for you to work on…

  • Find examples of interesting staircases. What makes these special?