Daily Archives: February 12, 2010

Health and architecture

My wife and I recently spent a night in Estes Park for our anniversary. It was just one night, so we decided to splurge a little and stay at the Stanley Hotel.  It’s a hundred year old hotel that has a beautiful history. (One claim of fame is that it’s the inspiration for Stephen King’s The Shining.) Besides the architectural style and the historical context of its ornamentation, there’s a stark difference between The Stanly Hotel and many contemporary hotels (and by contemporary I mean recently built hotels like the typical Holiday Inn, as opposed to a more modern style) – stairs.

As you walk through the front door of The Stanley Hotel you’re greeted by a wide staircase. There is an elevator next to the main staircase, but you’re pulled into the space by the generous stair and feel almost obligated to use the stair. There is a seating area on the landing between the lobby and the second floor, so the stair is not only a part of the building’s circulation but it becomes a destination.

Of course the stairs in most contemporary hotels are placed sufficiently to abide by current building codes, being placed at the opposite ends of a corridor that is also sufficiently designed to meet current building codes. These stairs are not meant to be used for daily use – they are for proper egress from the building in case of emergency, and they are designed to meet this requirement to a T. There are some building code issues that make it more difficult to build an open stairway between floors in a hotel (fire separation between floors, stuff like that), but it’s definitely not impossible to do.

On the Next American City’s website is an article The Architecture of Healthiness. We usually depend too much on elevators and escalators when walking from one floor to another. The article points out an initiative promoting the use of stairs, and essentially getting a good amount of exercise by just going through our daily routines (instead of allocating a specific time to focus only on exercise).

From the article – “Just two minutes of stair climbing a day burns enough calories to eliminate the one pound an average adult gains each year.”