Basics - Stairs, Ramps, and Slopes
by Nancy Gesimondo and Jim Postell
Stairs, ramps, and slopes are specific types of flooring assemblies that join two or more different levels.
Their design is guided, in part, by larger design intentions that involve human movement through space, along with scale, location, orientation, wayfinding strategies, and their contextual fit within the immediate and surrounding environment.
Their design and construction are also influenced by code constraints established to address concerns of safety and accessibility.
Through their components, materials, and surface articulation, stairs, ramps, and slopes can communicate spatial hierarchy in the way people navigate through buildings. The assembly of these systems can serve many purposes, including articulating space and establishing spatial order.
These elements also contribute to a wide variety serendipitous functions, such as serving as a place to sit and talk, or as a place to meet briefly.
Consider opportunities for integrating building assemblies with engineering systems. Stairs, ramps, and slopes can be considered primary building assemblies in which structural support, lighting, and MEP systems are incorporated.
These systems will influence the material selection as well as the composition and detail of their assembly.
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The cascading metal-and-glass-enclosed escalator at the Centre Pompidou, in Paris, France, is an integral part of the building's structurally expressive main facade. The building was designed by Richard Rogers and Renzo Piano.
Photo: Sina Almassi
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The monumental interior stair at the Centre Pompidou (1976) is supported by suspended tension cables attached to the building's structure above.
Photo: Jim Postell
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