First of all, the footwork. A narrow, tight-radius spiral staircase (the kind that comes in a kit form) challenges you to step carefully on each tread but might allow you the use of handrails on each side of the steps. A wider circular staircase offers the choice of walking on the inside radius or on the outside radius while still using a handrail. Daredevils can walk down the middle—look, mom, no hands!
Then there’s the ever-changing viewpoints created by walking up or down a circular staircase. Multi-floor monumental staircases in large atriums can not only create attractive architecture but also serve other functions.
Architect Dan Young Dixon envisioned a “living room space” in the atrium of the new Anderson Student Center at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, MN, which at its heart will feature a grand spiral staircase. “All the functions of the building-– food service, meeting rooms and recreational spaces –will flow from the atrium,” he said. “That’s why we generated this multilevel living room space as the hub, with the central staircase uniting all four floors.”
The spiral design functions as a truss supported by a single column. As the pieces are put together, they support each other. With glass sides, the open design will allow individuals in the living room to see their friends coming up or down the stairs. Furthermore, landings at each level will encourage chance encounters of those who enjoy the student center.
Helical Tube Bending by Chicago Metal Rolled Products
Another example of a monumental circular staircase within a large atrium is being constructed at Drexel University in Philadelphia, PA. This structure seems even more self-supporting than St. Thomas’s by cantilevering off the adjoining wall with what appears to be minimal structural connections.
The experience of walking on this structure will be enhanced by providing close-up views of a four-story “biowall,” at 1600 square feet the largest in this country. The plants in this structure function just like filters in forced-air heating and cooling units. The foliage which is attractive to look at in itself is grown without soil in hydroponic units of cinderblock and Scotch-Brite. The living filter will draw air through the roots of the plants where microbes will help clean it of particulates and volatile compounds.
Both of these staircases allow views of great open spaces that soar from the floor to the ceiling visually and structurally connected by exquisite monumental circular staircases. Chicago Metal Rolled Products is proud to have curved all the stair stringers for these two staircases and happy to have provided some fun steps in the process.
Regarding the design and fabrication of circular stairs, please see the Chicago Metal Rolled Products easy-to-use and powerful Stringer Calculator. It’s likely to make your life easier by providing quick and accurate computations, improved communication, and increased quality.