Commonplace ingenuity

August 10, 2013

Despite what the modern cult of personality might imply, aesthetics is not the sole domain of design professionals. I am often struck by the refined aesthetics that are anonymously laid down by engineers, many of whom are more in line with certain fundamental tenets of modern design than some designers are.

This modest, yet distinctive, set of stairs in Hastings is a good example. A central beam acts as the stringer, whilst folded chequer plate steel forms the treads and risers – forming an economical and simple structural arrangement.

The way in which the uprights terminate on the step treads (pictured, below left) give a staccato rhythm to the edge of the stairs, as opposed to the customary placement of a diagonal stringer on the outside of stairs. And finally, the points at which the stairs change direction (below right) and end (below left) bear simple details that express those junctures well.

Good design does not need to have a name attached, or a bombastic statement of intent. If we open our eyes to the myriad of objects, buildings and landscapes that are made as part of everyday life (by engineers, farmers, gardeners and others), there is a large body of cultural forms that can inform design that values continuity (rather than arbitrary trends).