Contemporary staircase as architectural inspiration

Project: The Building Centre, London

Innovative architectural trends

The Building Centre is an independent forum that serves as a meeting place for people involved in architecture and construction. Located in Central London, the organisation hosts permanent exhibitions, seminars and conferences.

Need for a contemporary staircase

John Bonning, the Centre’s Commercial Director, approached Q-railing for a suitable staircase solution. He showed Q-railing an existing timber staircase, which provided access to a large lower ground exhibition area and seminar suite area. It had been installed in the 1950’s and constructed using a glue laminated hemlock beam, with cantilevering timber treads. The design of the stair itself had stood the test of time, elegant and flowing, but modern British Standards building regulations meant that it was no longer compliant.

The Building Centre objective was clear, they wanted to install a contemporary staircase to enhance the existing product gallery spaces. Clearly, The Building Centre needed a replacement stair that was compliant, without compromising aesthetics.

Architectural advice in planning process

With ideas flowing, the conversation quickly moved to sketch drawings and an overarching concept. The Q-railing development team focused on the detail of the stair, both new and original. The original stair had a central spine, affording a floating effect (as the majority of the structure was inboard). It made sense to sit the steel inboard to maintain the floating effect and stay true to the visual field.

Project considerations:

  1. Could the existing stair take the additional loading associated with the new designs and balustrading?
  2. Would the fixings to the main building at the top and bottom of the spine be able to withstand the new loadings?
  3. How would we create fittings for the varying angles of the spine, in relation to the thread position? The central spine flange would have to attach to the existing spine would off all been bespoke fittings for every single step.

By assessing these points and more, Q-railing knew what was called for: two steel stringers, set inboard with welded flanges to allow the timber threads to be fixed. This way, steel strings (designed for loading) would also allow the base and top fixings of the structure to be designed accordingly.

The result: a new central staircase to give the product galleries a contemporary look in keeping with modern architectural trends. Q-railing’s Quickrail baluster system was chosen for the staircase balustrade. To enhance safety, a Q-lights integral LED lighting system was installed in the handrails. Void protection was created using the Easy Glass Slim top mount glass balustrade finished with monolithic low-iron glass and a cap rail.

Fast turnaround times

Q-railing systems are easy to install. The staircase and void protection were installed and approved by building inspectors in compliance with British standards within just 10 days.

Installation was separated into two phases: the void protection balustrade, and the replacement staircase. Together, we made sure that on-site work was sympathetic to the day-to-day running of the gallery by avoiding busy exhibitions, and working out of hours to cause minimal disruption.

All products and glass were pre-scheduled and held in stock, so everything was delivered on-site exactly when needed. Balancing long and short lead times was key, like the 42mm solid oak treads and incorporating Q-lights into the milled handrail. The latter was supplied directly from our headquarters in Germany, perfectly aligned with the glass panels for equally spaced lights.

Impressive ease of process

John Bonning quotes: “We are delighted with the finished staircase. The transformation of the area is now complete. We have received many positive comments from users of the Centre on how the staircase compliments the recent changes in the gallery spaces and has helped to improve the appearance of the galleries. We were particularly impressed with the ease of the process from initial concept design discussions through to installation and final staircase sign off – thanks to all at Q-railing and their recommended installer Aveyron.