Taking the stairs
There's a new movement in public health and ecology: encourage people to increase their stair-climbing activities. New York City issued a set of “active design guidelines" aimed at increasing stair use. “If we engineered physicality out of our lives, we can engineer it right back in." Stair-climbing is a more efficient form of exercise than walking:
• 2 additional minutes of stair-climbing per day (approximately 3 floors) can burn enough calories to eliminate the average adult's annual weight gain.
• There is a 33% difference, according to a Harvard study, in mortality rates between men who climbed more than 55 flights of stairs a week and those who didn't.
Inspire elevator users
I often see people waiting on an elevator just to go one floor or two. One really shouldn't take an elevator if only going up or down 1 floor (unless physically unable or carrying packages, etc). It doesn't make much sense to use the time and electricity to move a human up 10 feet when that same person can easily (and usually faster) walk the 10 feet up. Are we really so lazy that we need to be powered up a floor or two? In September 2008, I saw this green sign in New York City serving to educate people to not use the electricity. This sign provides a personal benefit - burning calories. At a time when so many Americans are overweight, that's a pretty good benefit. There has been a 67% rise in stair use at a ten-story middle-income housing complex in the Bronx after the city started posting these signs.
Force people to walk
Cooper Union's new academic building features luminous, centrally located stairs - and an elevator that stops on only three of the building's nine stories. It's not the first building to feature a “skip-stop" elevator; elevators at Baruch College's Newman Library and housing in Yonkers are similar. The idea was originally popularized by Le Corbusier in the 1920s to save space by eliminating elevator landings.
Encourage people with good design
Some Apple Stores (Fifth Avenue shown above) feature a glass stairway, “I've never seen anyone use the elevator." says an employee in SoHo. Stairwells at a housing project in the Bronx feature glass doors, and those at the Bronx Library Center have windows and an art installation. Other businesses put artwork on stairs and landings.
Longchamp store in SoHo (more below). Suspended spiral stair. Alternating step stair.
Annoy the elevator rider
Buildings can discourage elevator use just by making elevators smaller and slower, tactics New York City recommends “especially in low-rise buildings." These tactics are called “the naughty strategy."
• The first elevator shaft was designed in 1853 for the original Cooper Union.
• At the New York World's Fair in 1854, Elisha Otis demonstrated his new safety elevator.
• A steam-powered Otis elevator was first installed in 1857 at 488 Broadway in SoHo (a city landmark, it's still there in working condition).
• Number of elevators in New York City: 54,806
• Number of elevator trips per day in NYC: 30 million
An incredible staircase in SoHo
Longchamp, a women's accessory store established in Paris in 1948, opened a store in New York City's SoHo in a 1936 building at the corner of Spring and Greene streets. Because they had a small street level storefront, they told the architect, Thomas Heatherwick of London (isn't Thomas Heatherwick a great English name?) to make an entry so intriguing that people would want to climb to the second floor. He succeeded.
The undulating steel plates (55 tons of steel) and linoleum inserts form a spectacular entrance. The ribbon-like forms cascade down through the skylit core, dividing and converging; making a topography of walkways, landings, and steps.
Entrance level, door at bottom of diagram. Second level sales floor (the third level is for buyers and vendors only).
More great stuff - the stairway railings are bent plexiglas that undulate and drape as fabric might. The display shelves are strips of plywood that have been peeled down from the ceiling - each veneer layer of ply peels up to form a shelf. The frames in the bathroom are integrated with molding - a morphing of images, frames, and wall.