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Garvan Institute staircase: An iconic use of stainless steel and glass

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Stainless steel railings are a hallmark of contemporary stair design, though architects have been incorporating them into their buildings for decades. One of the more impressive uses of stainless steel can be found at the Garvan Institute in Sydney Australia.

This medical facility recruited famed architect and Sydney native Ken Woolley to design the central piece of the Institute's interior main lobby. Woolley, who was born in 1933, is credited as a key figure in developing the Sydney School of architecture, which featured innovative and imaginative geometric detailing on structures that at first sight appear fairly simple.

The Sydney School gained popularity throughout the country and across the Southern Hemisphere throughout the '50s and '60s and continues to influence modern architecture today.

This staircase captures the essence of the Sydney School by taking a relatively simple coiled design and stretching it out over a grand scale.

At six-stories tall, the staircase takes seven revolutions on its narrow stretch to the top of the building. The stainless steel railings make a double-helix as they wind up the structure, which is appropriate given the nature of the Garvan Institute as a biomedical research facility.

There are no balusters or newels on the staircase, as the handrails are supported by curving planes of glass. As well, there is no central support structure as the stairs rise to dizzying heights, seemingly defying gravity.

The casing is a polished, shining white, which is a signature look for interiors in this temperate zone and in buildings with a medical purpose. Despite being utilized exclusively Down Under, this look works in the Northern Hemisphere as well, increasingly gaining popularity in contemporary homes and buildings.


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