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Hardcover | Out of Print | ISBN: 9780262200837 | 216 pp. | 7.4 x 9.7 in | April 1992
Paperback | $30.00 Short | £20.95 | ISBN: 9780262700566 | 216 pp. | 7.4 x 9.7 in | March 1995

The Staircase, Volume 2

Studies of Hazards, Falls, and Safer Design


John Templer has written the first theoretical, historical, and scientific analysis of one of the most basic and universal building elements: the stair. Together, these two volumes present a detailed study of stairs and ramps—the art and science of their design, their history, and their hazards.

For the designer and the art and architectural historian, the first volume treats the fascinating history of stairs and their immense influence on the art and science of architecture. It is illustrated with more than 100 photographs from around the world and reviews the literature on stairs (as well as ladders and railings and ramps) from Vitruvius to Venturi. Templer considers the whole play of meanings in the idea of the stair—as art object, as structural idea, as legal prescription, or as poetic fancy—making it clear that the stair is simultaneously an aesthetic, architectonic, ergonomic, and cultural element. The second volume shows the dangers stairs present. Drawing on twenty years of human factors research on stairs, Templer sets out what is known about slips, trips, and falls and how best to design stairs to avoid their inherent dangers. He discusses the physiological and behavioral relationship between humans and stairs and walkways, the question of gait and slippery surfaces, and the various types of falls and the injuries that result. Perhaps most importantly, Templer proposes the idea of the soft stair, which could substantially reduce the annual epidemic of stair-related deaths and injuries.


“Anyone reading either of these volumes will never be able to look at staircases the same way again. By learning the history of stairs, we appreciate the rich vocabulary possible in their design and bemoan its absence in our era. By learning about safe stair construction, we come to understand how astonishingly little attention has been paid to this subject...If our public spaces are to encourage our sense of self-worth, community, and citizenship; if our private dwellings are to be more than merely machines for living, then books like this pair will undoubtedly form part of our re-education.”—Thomas Frick, Los Angeles Times


“I have waited a long time to read a work like John Templer's The Staircase. Its achievement of several objectives makes these unique volumes about buildings and about architecture. They blend the joy of aesthetics with the rigor of building science. They draw from historical, laboratory, and field research. They provide the passion of someone who clearly delights in architecture, yet they display the crispness of the analyst who sees bow buildings can better work for their users. This is a model product of architectural research.”
Michael L. Joroff, Director, MIT Laboratory of Architecture and Planning