Ups and downs of stairway design

Three steps into a building with tactile markers on every step and a narrow handrail on each side which does not continue to the last stepOne way of examining how architects view the design of stairways is to analyse the photographs used as illustrations in a prominent architectural magazine. The illustrations potentially serve as examples of best practice, but Karen Kim and Ed Steinfeld found that the illustrations left much to be desired. The point is made that if safe and inclusive features are not apparent in major industry journals and magazines, how can we hope to improve practice in the professions?

In their article, An Evaluation of Stairway Designs Featured in Architectural Record between 2000 and 2012, they found the lack of handrails occurred most often. The article includes several photographs and a list of the missing safety features. 

The Australian Human Rights Commission produced a document in 2008, “The Good, The Bad and the Ugly”, and it focuses on stairways and the placement of tactiles, handrails, and contrasting nosings – a good reference guide on what not to do.

The photograph shown was taken in Australia and shows tactile ground surface indicators (tgsi) on each step, but ironically nicely contrasted. I was told that this was for slip resistance. Can you spot the other mistake? People forget the ground level is a step and therefore the handrail should extend to the footpath in this case. The diameter of the handrail is also problematic. Editor.

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