STAIR RESEARCH - SCALALOGY

Scalalogy is a research field in the array of academic tasks. Its existence needs an explanation. The following questions should be answered: What is Scalalogy? What is the work of scalalogists? For whom scalalogy is of concern and use? Who investigates scalalogy?

1. Definition

Scalalogy is the science of the originalities and the appeal of stairs, or in brief, "knowledge of the staircase". It developed from the staircase research which is conducing in various ways, the virtual stair construction as well as architecture and art history. Subject of these studies is the manner of surmounting height differences by the use of constructions with steps. Ramps are not included. Since technical and creative work is always the expression of human willing and knowledge, the mere grasp and study of the objects is not enough. It is crucial to be interested in the individuals who created the stairs and made use of them, respectively are still using them - humans who are climbing the stairs. To explore the variety of shapes and technologies and to present these insights of stair creators is the purpose of Scalalogy.

2. Scientific Methods

The tight relation between the human climbing manner and the proportions of the steps compels the researching scalalogist to document every staircase in all its details. In this process it's important to register not only the staircase itself but the whole context, in other words, the stair hallway and the ground plan of the house. The hallway and the ground plan are related to the function of the staircase and are influencing the climbing manner of the occupier. Given that every nation, every tribe, even every town in Germany has developed a peculiar fashion in building facilities for surmounting levels, it becomes obvious that there had been plenty of objects; many of which became unknown. Above all the research must ascertain the still existing objects which have ever been built. The timeframe reaches from the early days until today. The topographic span embraces all areas of settlement of stair-building nations. A global investigation is important because modern architecture is tending internationally and is consequently constraining, or even suppressing, local traditions. The mentioned regional character is revealed by the measurements. Due to the narrow properties but also familiar to the shipping, the stairs of the houses in Amsterdam are steeper than those of Augsburg, which are also obligated to the trade. The very diverse units at that time should be added. Knowing them and having examined the object closely, translocated stairs can be located. In the last DIN 18065 (S. 11, 9) is in the ground plan sketches of the stairs, a so called walking range demarcated. Aside from the fact that you do not walk stairs but climb them, it should be called "climbing range"; the indicated area serves only the producer for the adherence of the standardization regulations of minimal footstep.

The area has nothing to do with the real climbing track of the occupier. The actual track can only be detected by precise scalalogical measurements. Scalalogy is the fundamental research of the interdependence of man and staircase, of subject and object, of individual and matter. If you know all varieties of the manner of stair users of the short and the tall, of young and old, of children and adults, of Africans, Americans and Europeans, adjusted ascents can be built for them. This problem is unconsciously long known. It was eluded by the construction of elevators and escalators. But as long as stairs will be built, for whatever reason, we would not only benefit from studies about the technology of stair constructions but also of the analysis of their partners: the occupiers who will use them. When studying the respective literature, it becomes startlingly apparent that users are barely discussed. The pace formula 2s + a = 2,13 feet (= 2 French feet), which 1683 Francois Blondel has theoretically conceived, still applies and hasn't been reflected; although men have grown to other heights within the last three hundred years. We observe in astonishment that children become taller than their parents, this is being the reason why the fashion industry is measuring thousands of potential clients in short time intervals to determine appropriate sizes. Solely, scalalogy is trying to determine the appropriate sizes of steps and stairs, however, due to the lack of staff and funding, only on a small basis; its findings are not yet entitled to claim a general validity. An efficient institution would be necessary - one which combines the experiences of the past with needs of the present. Despite twenty years of effort, there has not been any assistance, neither of craft associations nor of architects, and less of politicians. In a polar balanced institution which is gathering experience of conducted objects as well as projecting ahead, it has to be categorically stated what must vitally be standardized and what is shapeable. Surveying today's practice of the international stair construction, significant varieties are identifiable. In fact, it is common that the footstep must be horizontal but the measurements of the steps are subjected to regional customs. The same applies to the construction. For instance, stairs which are braced with steel cable (like in the Banca di Milano in Varese (architect R. Zavella) or like in the are only allowed abroad. Further examples of different constructions can easily be found.

Let alone the banisters! According to the German building regulations, there should not be outside stairs without intermediate banisters in intervals of 8, 2 feet in front of public buildings. What is the point of the inane child's head theory for the bar spacing of banisters? As if infants with a head circumference of 4, 2 inches would preferably crawl on stairs? Germany tends to prevent any conceivable case, even if it is unlikely. In other countries, it can be observed that there is a vast number of stairs of every shape without a banister. Since there are no banisters, no one is trying to stick the head through them; strangely also nobody plunged sideways. A foreseen danger had lost its dread. The local residents and daily occupiers have developed an inner assurance to climb the stairs without a banister - they do not depend on an exterior safeguard which would just provide a relative protection anyway. Who knows the history of stairs, is aware that banisters were not originally created for the safety of the climbing persons but as decoration of the ascent.

3. Benefit

Since Scalalogy is a research field which deals with the interdependence of men and stairs, building owners and tenants, architects and the craftsmen, stair producers and users, creative artists and art historians, curators and conservators, physiologists and psychologists, anthropologists and medics, teacher and pupils, all will profit from its findings - all are in one way or in another concerned with stairs and for all, the stair knowledge can be of use. It must be presumed that a wide awareness and a sufficient efficiency of the scalalogy depends on support and all those interested. Considering the numerous user groups, a scalalogical museum with an academic institute for scientific research is desirable or even required. It would be the first stair museum of the world. Its global duties should equally be reflected by the international exhibits; e. g. by double or triple circular staircases, by twin circular staircases or by the so called nested stairs.

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Technical Center General Motors; Foto: Courtesy of the Michigan State Historic Preservation Office

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Banca Popolare di Milano, Varese; Architekt: Renzo Zavanella; Foto:Bauen und Wohnen 2, 1960, S.68