Stairwells, as architectural elements, often exist merely for the purpose they serve; to connect the individual levels of a building. But on rare occasions, when the designer and architect find themselves working together in the same space, the stairwells takes on a much more central focus in the overall design of a space.

Here are some examples of amazing stairwell designs from around the world that stand out amongst the architecture in which they reside. Either because of the eye bending use of shadow play or the impressive use of beautifully sculpted wood, each of these staircases have something unique to offer their containing buildings.

Photo by Julian Weyer

Photo by Julian Weyer

Iconic Brazilian architect Oscar Neimeyer designed the Ministry of Foreign Affairs building in Brazil, amongst the 600 plus projects that he completed in his lifetime. A fan of the minimalist and modern movements well before their times, with this staircase Neimeyer created a central visual focus in what is otherwise an empty room. By removing the side rails and barricades, the exposed stairwell gives visitors the impression that it is simply floating in the middle of the room.

Anthony Gormley Sculpture Installed In St Paul's Cathedral London

Built in the 17th Century, nothing about the architecture of St. Paul’s Cathedral in London is new. So curators bring outside art inside to add even more drama to the already ornate English Baroque style of the cathedral. Here, a piece done by British sculptor Anthony Gormley graces the vast space between the stairwell’s spirals, allowing visitors not only multiple perspectives of the art itself, but also bridging a gap between the past and present.

Berlin Congress Center and Golden tower Groninger Museum

In a stunning display of color, the Congress Center in Berlin and the The Groninger Museum of modern and contemporary art in Groningen, Netherlands bring light and life into their spaces by creating unbelievably bright stairwells that steal the focus of the room.

arne jacobsen,  aarhus town hall 1937-1942 copy

Those unfamiliar with Arne Jacobsen’s architectural work may know him from his largely popular chair designs. Known as a pioneer of architectural functionalism, Jacobsen was very fond of allowing his design to serve their purpose in the most efficient way possible. This staircase, with its easy curve, allows easy access to adjacent floors, but because of its large opening, also allows light to enter the room below. The use of natural contrasting patterns also draws the eyes downward and into the space below.

Art Gallery of Ontario by Frank Gehry

Frank Gehry designed the Art Gallery of Ontario to serve as a meeting place between art and architecture. At the center of the gallery, the stairwell spares no expense at doing just that. Formed out of a molded blonde wood, the curving landings serve as a focal point in the completely redesigned entrance hall known as Walker Court.

Lendager Arkitekter's Upcycled Staircase is Made From Old Milk Crates

In a display of ingenious design, Lendager Arkitekters made use of old milk crates to fashion a very ‘green’ staircase that serves as a central piece to a home. The milk crates are held together with rope, which makes truly great use of efficient and readily available materials to create functional and beautiful design.

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Category: Architecture