What is it that grabs your attention when you walk into a building for the first time? For us, it’s often the staircase. Not only is it an architectural feature that naturally draws the eye upwards, but it also presents ample opportunities to think creatively and conceptualise a space with a difference. That’s why this month, we’re highlighting 9 inspiring staircase designs – read on to see our picks and find out why we love them.
Casa Batlló, Barcelona
This is Catalan modernism at its finest. Casa Batlló is considered one of architect Antoni Gaudí’s masterpieces, and its cavern-like entranceway is a case in point. In typical modernist style, the spiralled staircase is crafted from natural wood and features undulating organic forms inspired by nature. Notice how different types of the material are used in the staircase, too. The handrail and railings are crafted from a smoothed, slightly darker wood that contrasts with the frieze-work along the walls and the semicircular cut-outs framing each step.
Petr Weigl’s bas-relief staircase
Cavernous proportions set the scene for an incredible work of bas-relief by Petr Weigl that perfectly captures the essence of contemporary grandeur. The 13 metre high ‘Spirit of Adventure’ relief is inspired by the flow of water, and the tightening and widening curves suggest its pace and speed. What works so well about this piece is that its large scale cuts across the full ceiling height and effortlessly captures attention – yet its simple fluid form and palette don’t overpower the eye. Framing the piece with black architrave also creates balance, contrasting with the wrought black balustrade and step inlay.
Project by Kelly Wearstler
One of our favourite decorative techniques simply had to feature on this list. Trompe l’oeil, the art of tricking the eye into thinking it’s seeing three-dimensionality, is what elevates this spiralled staircase. The technique originated in the classical period – but here, designer Kelly Wearstler commissioned a mesmeric contemporary design that deceives you into thinking you’re viewing a wall of flowing material. To us, this project brings antiquity into the contemporary with flourish.
Project by Jacques Grange
What makes this staircase so special is its fluidity and precision. See how the sweeping curve appears to absorb each clean-cut marble step which is, in turn, laid with a stark multi-tonal wood. Another clever curatorial trick is situating a rippled bas-relief wall sculpture by Mathieu Lehanneur directly behind the sweeping staircase, amplifying its smoothness and creating textural tension.
Cheval Blanc Paris
What a pair. Here at the nine-floor Cheval Blanc hotel in Paris, architect Peter Marino co-locates Florian Tomballe sculpture alongside a monumental sculptural stone staircase. They ever-so-subtly mirror each others’ curves: the slight tilt of the sculpted handrail and curled scroll are reflected in the individual aspects of Tomballe’s sculptural piece.
Atrium Tower Lobby, Tel Aviv
Textural contrast is one of the properties we most lookout for, and this corporate project at the Atrium Tower Lobby in Tel Aviv achieves it well. The stair structure is created from two interlocking parts: a skeletal metal staircase and a sculptural wooden envelope. Tech Arch describes their cohesive movement: “Together, they rise as an expressive tornado from the reception desk – conceived as the inception plateau and up to the first-floor mezzanine, 14 metres above.” That’s how to make a statement.
Villa by Osvaldo Borsani
Another modernist masterpiece, but this time an Italian villa project by Osvaldo Borsani in Varado. Built in 1945, the staircase of this building is crafted from Candoglia marble, Murano glass panelling and walnut bannisters to create a clean and symmetrical staircase.
Hotel Tassel, designed by Victor Horta
If you know us at Pigmentti, you’ll know we’re advocates and admirers of the Art Nouveau period. This is a magical example of Art Nouveau writ large in a hotel staircase design. Victor Horta designed this decadent staircase for Hotel Tassel in 1985 and adds depth and curiosity to the movement’s traditional features. Wrought iron balustrades are intricately sculpted with curls that repeat across the mosaic floor and up into the staircase beyond with hand-painted ombre fresco-work.
Sculptural staircases that adorn a full wall are a way to maximise the proportions of a space by drawing attention to its entirety. At the New York Edition hotel, the Rockwell Group sought to do exactly that by transforming a staircase into a work of contemporary sculptural art that becomes the focal point of the lobby. Simplicity and timelessness go hand-in-hand, and this is how it’s done.