Followers of our work will know that we value open and inviting stairs for their social and health benefits. Providing convenient and appealing stairs invites people to walk up in lieu of taking the elevator, adding a little extra exercise to your day and increasing the chances of running into colleagues (and avoiding uncomfortable elevator silences). As part of our recently completed Gross Anatomy Lab Renovation for Tufts University, we incorporated a new communicating stair in the existing building. Opening off the lobby and tucked just behind the façade, this stair welcomes students on their way up to the new anatomy lab, and also lets passersby view the activity of this busy school from the street.
Opening up the floors by the large exterior windows not only encourages increased use of the stairs, but also allowed the intervention to help maximize the amount of natural light coming into the adjacent spaces. We utilized a simple material palette, using steel for the stair’s structure, terrazzo for the risers and treads, and glass and stainless steel for the guard rail. At the bottom and top of the stair, the surrounding floor is terrazzo, creating a material and literal link from the lobby up to a new student hangout space on the third floor just outside the anatomy lab.
The area underneath the base of a stair is often an underused space, requiring a rail to keep people from bumping their heads. For this project we extended the terrazzo at the low mid-landing to create a planter and bench, bringing some greenery to the interior, as well as providing a spot to sit and wait to meet someone or make a call.
One element where we took great care was the structure for the stair, which we teamed with Simpson Gumpertz & Heger to develop. In order to have crisp edges, we created a compound stringer using a channel and a plate to create a rectangular beam. Using a rectangular steel tube would have provided the same function with one standard steel component, but its cross-section has rounded corners. We benefited from working with a metal fabricator who did an excellent job welding very clean corners. The pre-cast terrazzo treads slip past the folded steel plates they sit on, exposing the terrazzo from below so they read as sitting lightly on the steel stringers. Extending the terrazzo treads also highlights them as separate parts from the stringers, contributing to the reading of the stair as an assembly of materials and components.
An Introduction to Tufts’ Gross Anatomy Laboratory
A New Technology-Driven Anatomy Lab at Tufts