Technically speaking, stairs are a means to get from one level to another - and indeed, most staircases are quite plain and practical. But thankfully, some architects and homebuilders have managed to combine form and function in creating spectacular staircases that really take it to the next level.
Take a look at these 10 wonderful examples of gorgeous staircases from around the world:
Striking Concrete Spiral Staircase in Oyonnax, France
Journalist Tony Allen-Mills, who writes at the Wit Over Ignorance blog, noted that amongst the stark Le Corbusier-inspired blockish and fortress-like Brutalist buildings in the French town of Oyonnax (famous for having the Museum of Comb, by the way) there is this striking concrete spiral staircase set in front of a vibrant yellow wall and set of red doors.
Allen-Mills found the "glorious concrete staircase tucked almost embarrassedly behind a box-like municipal structure." He noted that it's a suprising moment of modernist inspiration that flowered amid the dour Socialist (architectural) carnage.
Photo: Tony Allen-Mills (Tampen/Flickr)
Casa Do Staircase
The zen-like combination of warm wood and industrial concrete work wonders in this gorgeous spiral staircase. The minimalist staircase was designed in 2001 by renowned Chilean architect Cazú Zegers for the Casa Do in Los Vilos, Chile.
Image: Carlos Eguiguren - via Platforma Arquitectura
Elegant Black Cast-Iron Staircase
HofmanDujardin Architects created this dramatic black cast-iron spiral staircase for the law office of law and notary firm BarentsKrants in The Hague, the Netherlands.
Photo: Matthijs van Roon - via Contemporist
Steel Ribbon Stairs of Büro.Loft F27
Black and white is the theme of this modern office/residential loft Büro.Loft F27 in northern Graz, Austria. Architectural firm Schlosser + Partner designed these cantilevered stairs that look like a zig zag ribbon of steel.
Oscar Niemeyer's Stairs at Palácio do Itamaraty
Brazilian architect Oscar Niemeyer once said, "I am not attracted to straight angles or to the straight line, hard and inflexible, created by man. I am attracted to the free-flowing, sensual curves. The curves that I find in the mountains of my country, in the sinuousness of its rivers, in the waves of the ocean, and on the body of the beloved woman. Curves make up the entire Universe, the curved Universe of Einstein."
Nothing probably symbolizes Niemeyer's celebrated curve more than the stairs that he designed for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs at Palácio do Iramaty in Brasilia. The sweeping spiral staircase, with shallow and deep steps with deep blue carpet and no handrail provide a commanding focus in the vast white hall.
Photo: (Top) Simon Norfolk for The New York Times | Don't miss Michael Kimmelman's interview with Niemeyer over at The New York Times (Bottom) Marcelo López Dinardi and Oscar Oliver Didier of CIUDADLAB
Floating Concrete Staircase of Casa C-51
Ábaton Arquitectura of Spain designed these floating concrete blocks of stairs for a two-story modern home. The rough unfinished blocks of concrete provide a striking contrast to the polished floor and white walls.
Photo: Ábaton Arquitectura - via Platforma Arquitectura
Origami Stairs (Escalier Origamique)
Architectural firm Tetrarc designed and engineering firm Metalobil built this double helix staircases for contemporary furniture store IDM in Nantes, France. The double staircases, dubbed Escalier Origamique or Origami Stairs are made from sheets of steel folded, riveted, and suspended like a complex paperfolding structure.
Staggered Triangle Staircase
Left, right, left, right. Going up these sets of stairs look like a lot of fun! Gabriella Gustafson and Mattias Ståhlbom of TAF were faced with the need of creating a steep staircase in a very small space for a private residence in Stockholm, Sweden.
We'd say that the duo masterfully met that challenge with these triangular staggered stairs made from stacked boxes of pine.
Image: Bobo Olsson
The Grand Staircase at the Musée Gustave Moreau
The artwork at the Musée Gustave Moreau in Paris, France, is not the only thing that's breathtakingly beautiful. Behold, the grand staircase!
Gustave Moreau was a prolific 19th century French Symbolist painter (and when we say prolific, we meant prolific - Moreau produced over 8,000 paintings, watercolors and drawings). The museum that bears his name is actually his home and former workshop. The ornate staircase led to Moreau's private living quarters.
Rugged Beauty of the Wooden Staircase at BIP Computers
The BIP Computers building in Santiago, Chile, is remarkable for its heavy use of laminated plywood made from renewable pine. Designed by architect Alberto Mozo, beauty and strength of the wood blocks are readily apparent as in the spiral staircase shown above.