Never Ending “Staircase”
Have you heard about Fibonacci and his numbers a.k.a. The Golden Ratio? Leonardo Pisano Bigollo (Fibonacci) was an Italian mathematician born around 1170 A.D. He discovered the sequence of the numbers: 0, 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21, 34 (each number is found by summing up the two numbers before it). Visualised, this sequence makes a spiral. He was also one of the people who spread around Europe the Arabic numerals which replaced the Roman numerals. You can find more information about the Golden Ratio in this video:
The Golden Ratio of Fibonacci
Anyway, his perfect mathematical spiral is used everywhere around us. Some people say this is “The Spiral of God”. You might be asking yourself what is the connection between the title of this article and Fibonacci’s spiral. Actually, almost every helical staircase forms Leonardo’s sequence. When looked from a particular angle, an illusion of never ending staircase is created. This was just an interesting and curious information to begin my article with. Now, let’s continue with the first amazing stairway in the UK. You probably have heard about it:
Number 1: The London City Hall Staircase
The Mayor of London, the Greater London Authority and the London Assembly are gathered in the extravagant building of London’s City Hall. The building is located on the banks of the river Thames and reminds a river pebble. What is even more outrageous than the building itself is its helical glass staircase. The usе of glass is not accidental. It symbolizes the transparency of politicians’ decisions in London. It’s a very interesting fact that the stairway is used to eliminate all echoes occurred because of the extraordinary almost-spherical shape of the building. The specialists from the SMG company were responsible for the acoustics. They worked together with Arup Acoustics company who analysed and approved the designed shape of the giant staircase. Together they have managed to reduce the amount of echoes in the building. So, the extravagant form was not just a fad of the designers, but an effective way to cope with one serious problem. Two birds with one stone!
Number 2: St’ Paul’s Cathedral Geometric Stairwell (The Dean’s Staircase)
Honestly, this is the most beautiful spiral staircase I’ve ever walked on. The total number of steps in the Cathedral is 1161. They are divided in three parts:
- From the Cathedral’s floor to the “Whispering Gallery” there are 257 steps which are 30 metres high.
- From the “Whispering Gallery” to the next level — “Stone Gallery” you have to climb 376 steps. They are 54 metres high.
- To reach the last gallery you have to climb 528 steps that are 85 metres high. The “Golden Gallery” is the smallest of all galleries in the cathedral.
The look from the top of the dome definitely worths climbing each and every step. Breathtaking! Not recommended for people who suffer from acrophobia!!!
The Geometric Staircase at St’ Paul’s Cathedral (The Dean’s Staircase) has 88 stone treads. Each of them is set into the wall and perfectly shaped to rest on the tread that’s under — the perfect width of stairs. No other support has been provided by the constructors of this amazing architectural piece of art. The Geometric Stairwell has proven its durability over the centuries and will probably outlive most concrete stairs, even if they are designed by Richard Burbidge. The complicate construction has survived for over 300 years.
The French Huguenot ironworker Jean Tijou is the man who created the beautiful iron railings on the stairwell around 1689.
The staircase can be seen on the Big Screen in some very popular film productions as: Sherlock Holmes from 2009 and Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban from 2004.
Number 3: The Grand Wood Staircase of Titanic
Titianic may not be in the UK anymore. As you probably know, the ship hit an iceberg in the Atlantic ocean and sank in the night of 10 April 1912. However, she was built in Belfast (Northern Ireland). So, Titanic staircase can be considered as one of the 6 Unique Staircases in the UK You Wish You Could Walk Over.
Only first-class passengers were allowed to this part of the ship where the stairway was situated. No other passengers were able to witness the magnificent design of the ornate construction. The huge stairway descended five levels down leading to the F-Deck. Every single part of the banister was decorated with style. Craftsmen decorated the woodwork and oak panelling in two different styles: William and Mary. The grillwork of the iron banisters were in French style from the 17th century. There were also ornamented bronze cherubs to highlight the luxury of the whole stairway. Candelabras, baluster, paintings, carvings, intricate oak…Luxury was everywhere you turn.
Now, none of this can be seen on the bottom of the ocean. All wood parts were eaten by micro-organisms.
Talking about micro-organisms and wood protection, you should know that maintaining your wooden stairs or floors is not an easy task. Even the hardest wood needs a professional treatment from time to time. I can recommend you my favourite staircase restoration company in London — Great Floor Sanding. Last summer, they helped me renovate my entire house and the final result was just astonishing, especially the stairs. And the best thing was I paid less than I expected!
Number 4: The Grand Staircase at The Buckingham Palace
When you hear “The UK” what is your first association? The Queen! God save her! And where is her Majesty’s official residence in London? The Buckingham Palace. The grand staircase in the palace is another great example of British sophistication. The famous architect John Nash (together with Edward Blore) was chosen by King George IV to execute the remodelling of The Buckingham House and create The Buckingham Palace in the 19th century. Nash formed three wings around a central courtyard to expand the building. The architect is also famous for constructing the Royal Pavilion in Brighton which looks very much like Taj Mahal in India.
He was responsible for the Grand Stairway at the royal palace. Samuel Parker supplied the splendid gilt-bronze balustrade in 1828 at a cost of £3,900 (approximately £82,000 in 2014). Oak, laurel, acanthus and bronze were used in its construction. The beautiful dome above the staircase makes this part of the palace extremely bright during daytime and gives it a solemn appearance.
Queen Victoria ordered the series of her family portraits to be placed on the space around the upper part of the stairways. This way whoever climbed the stairs was “welcomed” by the royal family.
You can take a virtual walk and experience the majesty of The Grand Staircase at The Buckingham Palace on this website:
Number 5: Staircase III (not walkable)
This extravagant and unique and impossible staircase can be found in Tate Modern Gallery in London. Its creator is the talented South Korean artist Do-Ho Suh. The small stairway is an exact reproduction of the wood stairs in Suh’s apartment which connects his flat with his landlord’s apartment. It’s made of transparent red fabric which floats up in the gallery.
The sculptor’s idea is not very clear, but it definitely can make you think about it for a while. In 2010 Staircase III (a.k.a. The Endless Staircase) was very popular around London and a lot of Londoners and tourists went to see it at Tate Modern.
Number 6: 10 Downing Street Staircase
Our number 6 is actually “Number 10”. It is one of the emblems of London. It holds the headquarters of the UK Government and is the official residence of “The First Lord of the Treasury” — the Prime Minister.
Since 1684, it has been home to some of the most important people in British history like: Elizabeth Stuart (The Winter Queen), George Monck (1st Duke of Albemarle), Robert Walpole (the first Prime Minister of Great Britain), Winston Churchill, Margaret Thatcher, Tony Blair and David Cameron.
The main staircase of the building is the first thing you see when entering “Number 10”. It’s emblematic for the house itself. Over the last 300 years the stairway has been rebuilt and redesigned a few times. In 1734 William Kent’s craftsmen created a stone staircase with a beautiful balustrade made out of wrought iron and mahogany handrail.
By the middle of the 20th century, the stairway had sunk several centimeters into the ground and the balustrade was not aligned with the stairs. There was dry rot everywhere on the staircase. Actually, the whole building was in poor conditions, especially the wooden parts of it. Even the wood floor was considered dangerous and only a few people were allowed upstairs.
In 1958, there was a discussion of tearing down the whole building and constructing a new one on its place. However, this idea was rejected because of the historically importance of “Number 10”. The final decision of the British Government was to rebuild the iconic edifice without changing almost any detail in its interior.
Initially, it was reported by The Times that the total amount of expenses will be £400,000. However, the Government spent about £3,000,000 over the three years of reconstructions. The stairway was rebuilt with a slight change of the design.
As you probably know, black and white photographs of all the past Prime Ministers of the UK are placed on the walls around the main staircase. It’s an interesting fact that every single Prime Minister has only one photo on the wall. Everyone except Winston Churchill who has two photographs hung there.
These were The 6 Unique Staircases in the UK You Wish You Could Walk Over I know about. If you have seen some even more interesting banisters around the country, please share them with me and I might expand my article!