Stepping Up: Stairs as a Showpiece
Show-stopping Stairway Design in Utah Architecture
Stairs are often considered utilitarian, but who says they can’t be a showpiece?
For example, take the 90 North Medical Office building that CMA designed to house Valley OB/GYN and other medical offices. The three-story staircase is visible from the outside of the building. It’s a continuous walnut wood from riser to tread, delicately supported by the structural system.
The team collaborated with the contractor and the subcontractor who built the staircase on site to create something exquisite.
“It is one of my favorite stairs I have done personally,” said principal Jay Taggart. “Everything is custom. From the steel railing and connections, to the glass, to the walnut stairs and railings.”
CMA has always wanted to make something far more noteworthy than concrete stairs with a steel pipe railing. “Boring!” said project architect Dallas Nelson. “We can do economical stairs, but we can also change it up. Our specialty is designing stairs that get stares.”
Jay joked, “People understand our passion. One contractor even said, ‘Jay loves his stairs, make sure you do them right.’ We’re happy they noticed.”
Beauty isn’t the only thing that a stairway should showcase. These steps must also be designed for safety. That is where a stair nosing comes in. While stair nosing helps avoid edge damage, more importantly it keeps people from slipping and even alerts those with bifocals that the giant mass of wood or metal has both risers and treads. The stainless steel nosing at the UVU Autism building is a great example of this.
The nosing matches well with the stainless steel handrails and guardrails. The glass balustrade perfectly complements the lobby’s wall-to-wall windows. “The lobby is an amazing space to be in–views of the mountains, views of campus,” states Jay. “The stairs enhance the entire space – they’re the wow factor.”
The Star Mill restoration is an award-winning showpiece for CMA, with the staircase the magnum opus. The 50-foot, concrete grain silo was left untouched. “We wanted the same historical feel. With raw, unfinished wood, the stairs could have been in the original 1888 building,” said Dallas.
What is even more impressive is how the silo holds the stairs. The main structure is tube steel only braced on the perimeter—no columns or any vertical supports. The team loved the complexity combined with the simplicity. Although he didn’t work on this stair, Jay (and the entire office) appreciates and knows the design of it. “This is a sweet stair!” he exclaimed, excited about the payoff that came from completing such a difficult project. “Every tread measured, cut, and crafted was unique.”