Flow: Stairs and Steps
Essential for movement between multiple levels, stairs—whether interior or exterior—need to be designed with sensitivity to effectively improve the flow experience, and create a new form of social space. A classic example of this would be the iconic Spanish steps in Rome. It fits beautifully within the urban contours while linking Piazza di Spagna at the base and Piazza Trinità dei Monti, becoming a landmark, a well-known meeting place.
Some contemporary examples are found in the hilly area of Hong Kong—the Cascade Project, Asian Society in the Hong Kong Centre as well as other similar, local adaptation of stairs have created some urban refuge spaces in fast-paced cities. Some flat spaces are designed intentionally as “stepped”. Projects such as the MVRDV’s temporary installation of scaffolding staircase in Rotterdam and The “Vessel” in New York’s’ Hudson Yards are stairs that provide opportunities to experience an old space with new dimension through the flow of heights.
In our design of North Oakville Medical + Research (photo above)—to work with the cold climate condition in Toronto—we have included a covered staircase with an escalator that links the lobby to the podium garden. The staircase is covered with greenery and serve as the entrance signage of the building; in another design, the Sheppard Medical, the rooftop gardens are quite small at each level. By linking them with steps, we have created a more functional and interesting rooftop garden that also acts as a secondary fire exit, saving the interior space for medical exam rooms.