Stairs manufacturers in Europe don’t have to look very far for inspiration. With low cost airlines, some of the world’s finest staircases are only a stone’s throw away. If you travel a little further afield you will find even more examples of the world’s most artistic and architecturally impressive staircases.
1. The Spanish Steps, Italy
Climb Rome’s Spanish Steps from one piazza to another to reach the late renaissance church, Trinita dei Monti. The 138 steps were designed by two Italian architects and funded by a French diplomat, yet still managed to pick up the word ‘Spanish’ in their title. The strikingly beautiful steps are so named because they connect to the adjoining Spanish Square. The Spanish Square got its name from its proximity to the Spanish Embassy.
2. The Angkor Wat Temple, Cambodia
The steps ascending the world’s largest religious monument are so steep that you may be tempted to use your hands to climb to the top. Angkor Wat was originally a Hindu temple when it was built in the 12th century. Today it is a Buddhist temple and is the largest tourist attraction in South East Asia. In some places the steps are so worn that they have been given a semi-permanent replacement, complete with handrails to help you up. For more steep temple staircases, check out the Mayan temples in South America.
3. The Vatican Museum, Italy
With broad steps and creative bronze decorations, the double helix staircases of the Vatican museum intertwine like a DNA strand. Often incorrectly referred to as the ‘Bramante’ stairs, they were actually designed by Giuseppe Momo. The 1930s masterpiece is one of the most photographed staircases in the world. Whether you are viewing it from below or looking down from above, it is a beautiful sight to behold.
4. Umschreibung, Germany
Umschreibung, meaning ‘Rewriting’, is technically a sculpture. The steel structure is a unique 9-metre tall staircase that spirals into infinity. The architectural treasure cannot be climbed because it does not lead anywhere. The Olafur Eliasson creation simply exists to awe passers-by in the KPMG courtyard.
5. Mount Niesen, Switzerland
The Swiss Alps get the prize for the world’s longest staircase. At 11,674 steps, this challenging climb was once an access route for tram service personal. Today it attracts athletes in for an annual race. Rumour has it that one fit sprinter managed to ascend it in one hour.
6. The Longchamp Store, New York
The spectacular staircase in the Longchamp Store in New York must be the most architecturally impressive, artistic staircase ever designed for a retail store. This engineering masterpiece was designed by Thomas Heatherwick who was briefed to design a staircase that would attract people to the upper floor. The stairs consists of a series of ribbon-like modules, each curving into a slightly different height. To give the structure fluidity, the handrails are composed of customised curved glass panels. The glass appears to be draped over the stairs like a fabric. The design team liken the staircase to a landscape with a hillside and a waterfall.
7. The Kauri Tree Stairs, New Zealand
Ancient Kauri is wood that fell from Kauri trees and was preserved for thousands of years in New Zealand swamps. The largest known ancient kauri log ever to be extracted was used to carve out a staircase as a centre piece for a carving workshop. The staircase took over 500 hours to chain saw and carve. The tree lived for 1087 years before it fell 45,000 years ago. It is the oldest, and perhaps the only, staircase to be carved into a log.
8. Loretto Chapel, USA
This elegant staircase is famous for two mysterious reasons: its origin and its construction. In 1878 when the sisters of Loretto chapel prayed for a method to ascend to their inaccessible choir balcony, an unidentified man arrived at the door with just a few simple tools. He told the sisters he could construct a staircase but only in complete privacy. Three months later the staircase was complete but the man disappeared without a trace. Upon inspection, the sisters were fascinated to discover that the 20 foot spiral structure, that makes two complete 360o revolutions, has no apparent central support. There are no metal nails or glue, just wooden pegs. The origin of the wood is apparently untraceable as it appears to be made from an extinct species of tree.
9. Bridge-stair, Switzerland
When falling rocks destroyed the rope bridge over the Traversinertobel gorge in Switzerland, Jurg Conzett and Rolf Bachofner designed a unique alternative. Known as the ‘bridge-stair’, the 56 metre bridge of stairs connects two areas of different elevations.
10. Malwiya Tower, Iraq
Constructed in 852 and standing 52 metres high, the Malwiya tower is one of the oldest mosques in the world. A spiral stairs wraps around the outside of the sandstone tower. The lack of handrails makes this a dangerous climb.
11. Cedar Creek Treehouse, USA
Rated as one of the world’s top 10 most unusual hotels, the Washington-based Cedar Creek Treehouse is located 15 metres above ground in the canopy of the mountain. The only way up and down is via a terrifying wrap-around staircase that ascends a neighbouring tree. The staircase leads out onto a precariously high rope-bridge that links to the treehouse.
12. Tiger & Turtle, Germany
The Turtle and Tiger staircase is a steel and zinc sculpture that looks like a rollercoaster. It is situated on a height offering unparalleled views of the surrounding scenery. It was designed by Heike Mutter and Ulrick Genth and it took 8 weeks to construct.
Article by Jenna Crotty.
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