Staircases can be so much more than just a means of getting to the next floor. A staircase can be a work of art, a conversation piece, a place to meditate, or a historical marker.
Floating on a Wall
This floating staircase above by designer Jordi Vayreda looks dangerous, but the steps are made of steel welded to a thick beam inside the wall. The top of the wall can be used as a handrail for the upper half of the staircase. See more pictures and an explanation here.
This design makes sweeping under the stairs easy! A hanging double spiral staircase is part of the Didden Village project in Rotterdam. There are two such staircases; the other is a single spiral.
Levitate Architects of London designed this bookshelf staircase to combine storage space with access to a loft bedroom. The skylight above provides enough daylight to read a book while you sit on the stairs!
Another way to use stairs for extra storage is to put drawers in the risers. That's a lot of drawers. When this design went around the internet, everyone loved it, but all I could think of was how my kids tend to leave drawers open, and how easy it would be to trip over one that was left even the slightest bit ajar.
Gabriella Gustafson and Mattias StÃ¥hlbom of TAF designed this unusual staircase for a private residence in Stockholm, Sweden. The alternating stair design takes up much less room than conventional stairs, but you cannot rush up or down without thinking about where you put your feet!
Step Up, Slide Down
Entrepreneur Scott Jones built a spiral staircase combined with a slide for his home. The mahogany slide took 15 months to build, and the spiral staircase was added afterward.
The Stairway as Art
Stairs to Nowhere
The Winchester Mystery House in San Jose, California, was built by Sarah L. Winchester, widow of the famous gun maker. The 160-room house was under constant construction for 38 years, until Winchester's death in 1922. She believed that the house was haunted by the spirits of those killed by Winchester rifles, and only constant building would keep them from taking her life. One of the many strange features of the house is this staircase that leads straight to the ceiling!
The Miraculous Staircase
The helix staircase at Sisters of Loretto Chapel in Santa Fe, New Mexico has legendary roots. The story goes that the chapel was built without access to the choir loft. There was no room for a normal staircase, so the sisters prayed to St. Joseph (the carpenter) for a solution. A mysterious man arrived, looking for work, and built the spiral staircase without a center support pole. He then left without being paid. The nuns believed the stranger to be St. Joseph himself. Later evidence points to the staircase as the work of French woodworker Francois-Jean Rochas. Some say the staircase is a miracle since it has no visible means of support, while others say the support is there, it's just hidden from view.
The Survivor's Staircase was the only part of the World Trade Center left standing above ground after the destruction of September 11, 2001. The staircase was recently moved for the second time this year, as construction of the World Trade Center Memorial and Museum continues. It will be installed as part of the memorial, scheduled to be completed in 2012. Image by Phillip Ritz.