In a typical office building, stairs tend to be strictly utilitarian: a way to get up and down and nothing more. When they’re windowless, cement-walled, and fluorescently lit, it’s not surprising that people end up taking the elevator. But more architects are starting to pay more attention to staircases, whether it’s to deliberately encourage people to exercise, as in the Bullitt Center’s "irresistible stairway" in Seattle, or as a place to socialize, as in this new project in London.
Designed for a new office development in Soho, London, the "Living Staircase" has hidden rooms at each landing. "The office space will be rented to many different creative companies, so the central staircase feature creates the perfect opportunity for staff from different organizations to interact," explains architect Paul Cocksedge.
The giant spiral staircase lacks a standard central pillar, which opened up more space in the design. On one landing, there’s a hidden library, and on another, a place to draw. "At every turn there is an opportunity to stop and look, smell, read, write, talk, meet, think, and rest," Cocksedge says. Stair-goers can even make fresh tea: a garden running along the railing includes mint plants.
And it seems pretty likely that people in this building will end up taking the stairs several times a day, getting the amount of activity that researchers say can be as good as a trip to the gym. "Encouraging people to take the stairs for exercise wasn’t central to the vision, says Sybil Caines, who works with Paul Cocksedge, "but it’s definitely an added benefit."