Monday, March 05, 2012

Fencing off spiral staircases

click photo to enlarge
I've eulogized the spiral staircase elsewhere in this blog, and I've included photographs of many of the examples, old and new, that I've come across on my travels. I've been especially pleased that architects today often choose steel versions for external entry and exit, and more particularly as fire escapes. However, with the increasing popularity of the latter a problem has arisen: how to keep the unwanted - robbers, vandals and kids - off them. The answer has an ugliness that all but destroys the functional beauty of the spiral staircase.

It usually involves erecting a circle of triple point palisade fencing around it at ground level, with entry through a lockable gate made of the same material. It's a sad indictment of our society that such a vicious thing exists, but it adds insult to injury to use it in this way. I acknowledge that there are circumstances in which it may be necessary, but I'm beginning to think that if one of these rings of steel is the answer then a spiral staircase shouldn't be the solution an architect adopts!

Today's photographs show two spiral staircases on the exterior of the Boathouse Business Centre at Wisbech, Cambridgeshire, the subject of yesterday's post and this one in February 2010. Both have the offending circular fence at the base. I managed to exclude it on the main photograph that includes the helical wind turbine, and was quite pleased with the strong, dramatic shape that I captured. However, I deliberately included it in the other image as an illustration of the point I wished to make, but also because, combined with the shapes and colours of the rest of the composition it almost achieved a Russian Constructivist quality. Almost, but not quite!

If, after sampling these, somewhat disfigured spiral staircases, you'd like to see some more interesting examples, you might like to try this one in a Cambridge museum, this one on the back of some Blackpool offices, this one in South Stack Lighthouse, Anglesey, this reflection of one on Blackpool Casino, or this almost-spiral at Somerset House, London.

photographs and text (c) T. Boughen

Photo 1
Camera: Canon
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 27mm
F No: f7.1
Shutter Speed: 1/320 sec
ISO: 100
Exposure Compensation:  -1.0 EV
Image Stabilisation: On

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

Beautiful staircases, they look like ammonites fossils or snail shells.  Do you suppose that is where the idea stemmed from?  Great photographs, especially the main one.  Very dramatic and powerful.
LA

Tony Boughen said...

Thanks LA. It's hard to know where the idea came from. I've always assumed it developed from the spiral staircases in castle walls and church towers where the need was for upward and downward movement in a confined space, and that more decorative variations grew from this basic idea. But I could be way off the mark.

Regards,
Tony