Emergency staircase in a 19th century school building.
Cities get old and so do their buildings. One of the main works of the architect nowadays is to intervene in historical sites: old buildings need to be used and be adapted to new regulations in order to keep existing. This small but carefully thought project does just that: introduce a new architectural element, an emergency staircase, within a building from the 19th century. The result is an architectural and materiality dialogue between opposites that allows past and present to coexist in harmony.
The project is addressed not only to meet the conditions of use (evacuation in the event of a fire) but also to pay special attention to its materiality and design in order to establish a dialogue with the existing building. It is intended to generate a symbiotic architectural relationship. The objective is to intervene in a contemporary way, enhancing the presence of historical heritage.
The building presents a massive construction that belongs to its historical moment. Brick walls and masonry boxes make up structural walls of 60cms wide that constitute, in addition to their structural work, the image and presence of the building without the need for surface finishes. Through the different bricks, it is possible to detail the structural and aesthetic encounters of the building. It is a building with evident character of permanence in the site.
The project proposes a direct, but humble, confrontation with the pre-existence architecture. In this sense we propose an intervention of opposites in order to enhance the historical buildings: volumetric definition of the school vs. transparency of the staircase; the weight of the brick vs. the lightness of the steel. Just like the existing building, the staircase uses a single material to generate not only its structure but also its finish generating a brick-steel, past-present dialogue.
The structure of the staircase is independent of the building, reducing to a minimum the intervention both on the building and on the site, which can be reversible or adaptable over time. Therefore, two side trusses provide the greatest possible transparency and lightness. These two trusses are supported on four pillars in the intermediate landing, being cantilevered on both sides. On the other hand, the treads are made with steel rods forming not only the support surface for its use but also the structural connection of both side trusses. In the upper part, a support solution is proposed that only acts when the ladder is being used, while in the lower part the cantilever allows a dialogue with the ground, generating a situation of lightness reinforced by the presence of a first step of granite. The staircase seems to float in front of the building underlining the reversible condition of the intervention while giving prominence to the existing building.
As for its materiality, the dialogue between opposites continues: brick-steel. The steel is used in the same way that the brick was used in the existing building: the entire intervention is, at the same time, structure and finish. The objective is to differentiate but integrate the staircase with the rest of the existing buildings. For this reason, the entire staircase is painted black, which is neutral color compared to the old brown of the brick. The presence side by side is sufficient to differentiate the intervention from the rest of the present architectures while the intervention is integrated as another architectural element that sill now have to coexist throughout time with the historical set.