A recently-constructed staircase in London, has been shortlisted for a coveted engineering award. The Miles Stair, located in the west wing of Somerset House has been nominated for the Award for Arts and Entertainment Structures at the Structural Awards 2014. It is one of a shortlist of four that also features the Reid Building at Glasgow School of Art, the “Slipstream” sculpture at Heathrow Airport’s Terminal 2 and the Sackler Gallery at London’s Serpentine.
The Miles Stair is a spiral staircase constructed from lightweight concrete with a unique stainless steel core running through the centre. It features 104 steps that wind their way up through the four tiers of the Grade I listed building.
Explaining the reasons for the staircases nomination, the judges praised the design’s elegance and refinement, saying: “The engineers have exploited the strength and dimensional stability of high-performance concrete to produce treads which are themselves works of art. The use of the lightweight filigree steel core adds to the surprise and visual impact. The engineers have succeeded in producing a stair that is extremely refined and provides an important and delightful addition to an important historic building.”
Somerset House was originally constructed between 1548 and 1553, upon the orders of Edward Seymour, later the Duke of Somerset, after the death of his elder brother King Henry VIII. As the king’s son Edward was too young to ascend to the throne, the Duke assigned himself to the position of Lord Protector in the face of fierce opposition – so much so, he was imprisoned twice in the Tower of London, accused of treason, the second time resulting in his execution.
The building changed hands several times through the centuries, narrowly escaping damage in the Great Fire of London, but over time it gradually fell into a state of disrepair and was demolished in the 18th century, with a brand new Somerset House built in its place on the same site.
The new building is home to a number of cultural and artistic organisations including the Royal Society of Literature and MOBO.