The spiral staircase is a common modern feature found in many homes and other types of buildings such as churches, castles and lighthouses. It is a type of staircase that adopts a rounded, curved design consisting of individual steps that are rotated to create a spiral shape. This statement feature has been around for centuries and has a rich history that many of us aren’t aware of.
A Roman design
The earliest spiral staircase is believed to have been created at Trajan’s Column in Rome in 113 AD. The 185 steps spread over the 35 meter column lead to a platform providing a panoramic view of Rome. This design was subsequently widely used in Roman architecture, and gradually spread to influence the design of buildings across Europe. It particularly gained popularity in bell towers and spires as the spiral staircase provides an efficient and practical way to quickly ascend tall structures.
The original design was somewhat different to the modern spiral staircase as the steps were built directly into the walls instead of being freestanding structures utilising a centre pole for support. They were also mainly made with marble or stone, whereas today’s designs can include a variety of materials such as glass, wood and steel.
From convenient design to tactical feature
In the middle ages, the spiral staircase became very popular in castles for tactical reasons. In fact, the narrow design of spiral staircases presented an advantage when kingdoms faced attacks. In the event of an ambush, spiral staircases would prevent enemies from running up in large groups. Additionally, spiral staircases found in castles were built with steps of different heights and sizes in order to make it easier for enemies to trip over. The familiarity of the pattern would constitute a great advantage to those residing in the dwellings, as they could run up confidently across the known pattern.
Why do we still use them today?
The spiral staircase has come a long way since it was first developed and has stood the test of time. It gained a lot of popularity in wealthy households in the Victorian times, and then became more widely used when it became more cost-efficient in the later part of the 20th century.
The spiral staircase still remains a common home feature in today’s day and age, but why are they still around now? Spiral staircases are now designed and built in various shapes, sizes and styles. Not only can many textures and materials be used to create a unique statement feature, the wide array of styles available can truly make a spiral staircase stand out to match a homeowner’s personality while adding a touch of sophistication. This timeless structure is also highly convenient as it allows to save a considerable amount of space compared to other types of staircases.
The spiral staircase is also very widely used in touristic places, particularly in buildings that can provide visitors with spectacular panoramic views such as the top of the Statue of Liberty in New York.