Incredibly enough, we are still discussing the details of the railing for the stair at the houses in Mallorca. Since the works have been long delayed due to problems with the electric supply we have had time for philosophy…
Our initial detailing was a simple railing with two horizontal metal tubes, emphasizing the lightness of the stair. Altough regulations for private stairs allow for that in Spain, further consideratations relating safety of users where introduced by the blacksmith, who said, “hey, this ain’t japan”, referring to those floating japanese stairs with almost no railing at all. And it ain’t.
So yeah, we remade the detail, in order to make sure those spanish kids, apparently less skilled or more dumb than the japanese, would be able to go to bed with limited risk. We went to a traditional detail at the office, with vertical stair rods, as the ones we designed for the Ribadeo social housing, or the 100.000 euros house in Guadalajara, Spain.
So we did study the detail, considering both vertical and horizontal rods. I personally like the “retro” touch of the vertical ones, specially if introducing a wooden railing for the hand to slide as ascending or descending the stair. It was a cheap solution, and taking rods very close together the whole could start to look as almost a white silk tissue, if we get poethic.
Instructions were given to the blacksmith, who resumed his work. But the week after word was spread that a wonderful glass railing had been spotted somewhere in the island, and the property asked us to reconsider the details.
Since it did not affect the planning of the works, given that they were almost in “stand by” due to the mentioned problems with the electric company, and since the close links between property, building company and our own office demand us adaptability and “left hand”, as the spanish saying goes, and since anyway that is our nature at the office, we provided a detail with glass. It is an extra cost for us and we can’t charge it to the property, due to that closeness, which is at some times regarding, at some times counterproductive. The issue is what is going to be at long term, but we are being told that everybody is loving the design, and that we may be hired for other projects. We are eager to keep on making magic!
Not that glass technology comes new to us, we have several examples built, as the stair at the renovation of Sants Municipality in Barcelona, (with A+M architects), or the National Institute of Technology in León, Spain (with I. Lopez, L. Vives and P. Ayesta). But those details were considered from the beginning, so the whole structure of the stairs was conceived to hold the glass from the bottom, so we had…just glass…no vertical metal supports.
It is not the case in Mallorca, the stair is already built and inserting the glass in the stair structure is not an option. We have to find another way to hold it, using vertical metal supports. And we are eager to try new ideas, so we see different built solutions, and we can contrast them.
From the beginning we have been concerned with the lightness and delicacy of the finished stair, and it has been our struggle to maintain that spirit through the works. With this new option, we have to make some points that contradict some established points of view: everybody seems to thinks glass is invisible, but in my own happy word of perceptio, glass is heavy and has some difficulty becoming aerial. Very shiny but very lazy guy, glass is.
And…do you know the weight of a square meter of a 10 mm tempered glass, which is what we would be needing here? Well, 25 Kg!! which is what my 6 year-old weights. And I can’t walk more than a hundred meters with him on my shoulders without loosing my breath…
The vertical supports at the Malllorca stair are quite far appart, we want to avoid having too much structure, so our idea was to insert a bottom horizontal metal profile holding the glass. That way we give resistance to the glass when facing horizontal thrusts. We decided that we would have the glass not arriving to the mentioned top wooden railing, in order to make the whole impression lighter.
But then last week we got another call from the builder, who says two german clients went to see the houses and were extremely excited with the design, and wanted to know who the architects were ans so and so, but that they expected the railing to be finished to make a final judgement. From that statement thought were developed and we were told that we had to make something more…spectacular! So we are back to the beginning.
Now today we have to make a decision because the works have restarted and what we cannot accept is delays due to design decisions concerning us. I will be talking to the builder later on, but what I would think is since we have two stairs and one is done and has the vertical metal supports already in place, we do one railing with the “retro” vertical rod solutions, and the other one with a different solution for the vertical supports but just glass between them, so we have two different stairs and we can compare which is more beautiful. My fight here will be to have a wooden top railing, because for me touch is as important as vision, all senses should be taken into account in a good design ( -Sight , hearing , taste , smell , and touch are the five traditionally recognized senses-.)
I hope you excuse me if today I am a bit sarcastic and overpowering, but it’s been a long while considering a stair railing, and it is time to take it out of my system….until the next stair!