Monday, November 22, 2010

Architectural details: Staircases

Staircases often become design elements in the home, serving not only as vertical circulation but often becoming an important artistic element in the home's interior. Staircases I have designed have been very carefully sculpted to suit the home's style and always to provide drama.

At our project at 2913 1/2 Hawthorne Road in Tampa, the client desired a sculptural stair in keeping with the contemporary aesthetic. Although it has been done before we have pushed the envelope beyond other such examples. We chose to cantilever the stair from the wall and to make the "winders" at the landing become a portion of a solid mass. The treads were constructed of steel angles bolted through a fully filled masonry wall, with sleeves of polished precast concrete encasing them. The railing uprights attach only at the floor and the landing, with nothing touching the treads. Furthermore, the stair is carefully lit like a piece of art.

At our beachfront project at 6477 Gulf of Mexico Drive on Longboat Key, the client wanted the home to recall a "Balinese" aesthetic. The interior became a symphony of warm tropical hardwoods. The staircase, directly in the center of the home in a two story space, has handrails and balusters of polished portions of bamboo, with careful selections made of the thickness of the bamboo stalk and its function as a baluster, a newel or a handrail. Hardwood treads and open risers complete the composition, an artful manifestation of the client's recollection her several trips to Bali.


At our project at 1372 Harbor Drive on the bayfront in Sarasota, there were several overriding concepts. Firstly, the view of the bay was paramount. In addition, the client wanted as few flat walls and square corners as practicable, allowing for very pleasing "organic" shapes. The staircase curves in such a manner as to provide optimal views of spectacular Sarasota Bay as one descends from the upper levels. In this manner, the staircase becomes rather experiential in that its use is an "event" as much as a practical matter of reaching another level. This is further enhanced by the circular tower constructed directly above the landing, itself recalling the tower's shape. High in the tower, are elliptical windows bathing the staircase with light from above, as well as tall "slit" windows suggesting vertical movement. The tower became a prominent element of the exterior of the home, perfectly in harmony with its neo-traditional style.

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