London’s Spiral Staircases and their Locations
This is the first of hopefully a few location guides I would like to share with people, I often get emails sent from people and other photographers asking me the locations of many of the staircases and other images I have taken and although I do geotag all my photos on the likes of my Flickr uploads its not that apparent to see where they are from the maps they provide so I thought this location guide (along with maps too) would be helpful for all those who are keen to know and find out.
Today’s first location guide is of the spiral staircases I have found in our capital city of London, right shall we start?
Wellcome Collection, Euston Road, London
This is the first I would like to share with you all and its also London’s newest spiral staircase. I was fortunate enough to go visit on the spiral staircases opening day and quite unusually it was quite quiet. The staff there are very polite and have no issues with you taking photos which is also a big thumbs up for us photographers. I didn’t use a tripod but I suspect it wouldn’t be an issue here.
The staff seemed very proud of their brand new staircase and so they should be, as it was designed by Stirling Prize winner architects Wilkinson Eyre. The staircase design is very organic in design and not symmetrical in anyway compared to other spiral staircases in London, it reminds me so much of the Gaudi organic architecture when I visited Barcelona a few years ago, I pretty certain some inspiration has come from Gaudi in the design of this staircase. The staircase is mainly made of metal and its very tactile which I believe a spiral staircase should be , the surface of the metal has many textures on it and it makes you want to touch it all the time.
This staircase is located nicely between Kings Cross and Euston mainline and Underground stations so nice and easy to get to (see map above) and certainly worth a visit if you around this area.
Saw Swee Hock Student Centre, Sheffield Street, London
Another new addition to the London Spiral Staircase scene and this is located in the Saw Swee Hock Student Centre as part of the London School of Economics. Sadly unless you study here or go to the Open House London event like I did, I believe visiting this staircase may prove a bit difficult but you never know you may be able to arrange a visit if you ask them nicely before visiting.
I love these raw type of spiral staircases, the design has nothing fancy to hide behind and when designed and made it has to be perfect. The man leading our tour around the building told us it was cast in sections using concrete casts and took ages to set rock hard. Not the biggest of staircases but still wonderful in everyday. If you get to go and visit check out the woodgrain markings that are within the concrete as they used wooden concrete castings to make it and these marks with left behind, in my personal opinion I love this type of detail, adds a bit of uniqueness to the whole staircase.
The nearest tube station is Holborn, its probably about 10 minute brisk walk from this tube station but I must stress that this is a University so sadly just can’t turn up unless you have arranged to do so. The other opportunity to visit is Open House London in September of every year, check out the link for more information.
Aloft Hotel Excel, Docklands, London
A lesser well known staircase this one, in-fact I hadn’t seen any other photos of this anywhere on the internet apart from a poor photo I saw of the staircase from a distance when doing my research.
Its a very small wooden staircase located in the main reception of the Hotel and only goes up a couple of floors however I always feel my photo gives a sense that the staircase is massive, almost illusion in a way, however this demonstrates how a staircase is perceived by people that look at it. Sadly I don’t know too much about who made the staircase but I love the wooden detailing, especially the textures going on of the grain juxtaposed with the Polka Dot ceiling and rough textured rendered concrete.
This is certainly worth visiting if you down this way in London. It is a little bit of a trek out of central London and the nearest DLR station is Prince Regent. I kindly asked the staff before taking this photo and again very polite and allowed me to do so, so certainly worth a an ask here before getting your camera out.
CitizenM Hotel, Bankside, London
This is by far my own personal favourite staircase in London and again a little lesser known one of that. Again located in a Hotel’s reception and small in comparison to those in museums and larger buildings but this wooden staircase has so much character and I think its awesome. Its made up of loads of individual lengths of wood, each very different and react differently when the light shines on it. Each piece of wood tells a story of the tree it came from and the wood grain for me is what makes this staircase. I just found myself touching and feeling the staircase, again very tactile in nature.
In the CitizenM Hotels around the world, each has a spiral staircase feature in their reception, its almost like their ‘Calling Card’ in each of their hotels. I am hoping to visit the others at some point to add to my photographic collection of spiral staircases.
The nearest tube stations are London Bridge and Southwark, its located halfway between both of these Underground stations and is about 10-15 minute walk I would say. Again ask politely if you can take some photos of the staircase before doing so and also enjoy a drink or something to eat in their wonderful Cafe they have in the hotel’s reception as its quite unusual.
Henrietta Place Car Park, Welbeck Street, London
Hidden deep within a public car park this spiral staircase and certainly is very gritty and urban in feel. Its the NCP car park just off Oxford Street and is the spiral staircase that links all the levels of the car park.
Its most effective looking from below looking towards the top of the car park but I do warn you that the area at the bottom of the staircase is not that pleasant and has some odd smells so don’t put your camera or bags down on the floor here, space is quite limited too but I did manage to use a tripod on this image so it it possible.
The design of this staircase like I mentioned before is very gritty and almost has a sinister nature to it, I have had people tell me that this image doesn’t do their vertigo any good and they can’t tell by looking at the image if that are looking up or down, sorry if this has the same effect on you. I like the angular nature of this staircase, certainly reflects the Brutalist arcetrue of the whole car park.
Located just off Oxford Street and the nearest tube station is Bond Street on the Central Line, its about a 5 minute walk from here to the car park.
Premier Inn Blackfriars, Dorset Rise, London
Back to a hotel spiral staircase and this time at Premier Inn Blackfriars. The hotel had been recently been refurbished and this spiral staircase is at the centre of the building. I quite like it although its not the most elegant and stunning staircase there is in London nor is it very colourful hence the reason why I did the image in black and white but I always feel quite drawn into the photo.
When I was taking the image I think the building contractor was doing his rounds of the building and he asked me what I thought of the staircase and I told him I liked it but he went on to say that he hated the black railing that they had to add to every level due to Health and Safety, he felt that it ruined the whole staircase compared to what it was before and there is part of me that has to agree, I would prefer it not being there from a photographic point of view but still I like it.
Again, ask at the hotel reception before taking photos unless your staying here of course. Blackfriars Underground station is the nearest station to this staircase.
Queen’s House, Tulip Staircase, Greenwich, London
Probably one the most famous and most photographed spiral staircases in London. This is the Tulip Staircase in the Queen’s House, Greenwich.
Its a self-supporting spiral staircase and very elegant in design, its certainly refections its name in its design. Lovely flowing lines and curves with soft colours really make this such an appealing staircase. It took me a while to see why it was called the Tulip Staircase until I noticed the Tulips that make up the banister, I think this is a small detail that is often overlooked by people, including myself initially.
During my last visit you couldn’t go to the top although I have heard from other photographers since that you can now. The staff are very friendly and approachable and photography is certainly allowed. The nearest DLR station is Cutty Sark and its about 10-15 minute walk from here.
Heal’s Department Store, Tottenham Court Road, London
Again another spiral staircase popular with photographers and its located inside a department store off Tottenham Court Road called Heal’s.
The spiral staircase boasts very bold and striking colours with the latest addition during a recent refurbishment of a massive chandelier located within the middle of the staircase which I think is a “Marmite” subject between photographers, some like it and others don’t and prefer it the way it was. I am fortunate enough to have both pictures pre and post refurbishment so I will let you make your own mind up on this as I will include them below however I am undecided. I have visited here many of times and sometimes I really like the chandelier and its striking orb like lights and other times I visit and wish for a bit more refinement and take away the chandelier, I just can’t make my mind up!
Goodge Street is the nearest Underground station, only a couple minutes walk to Heals from here. I have never had any issues in taking photos of the staircase but I have heard other photographers have so just be aware of this.
Tate Britain, Millbank, London
Probably one of my favourite Museums in London, that is Tate Britain. From a spiral staircase point of view it does a concentrated collection of spiral staircase within the building and certainly worth a visit if you are as obsessed with spiral staircases as I am.
The main staircase in the central part of the building is wonderful feast for the eyes, the way the light bounces off all the different lines and curves is stunning. My favourite part of this main staircase is the wonderful upside water droplets (thats what I call them), they really attract your eye and are a wonderful inclusion in the part stone and glass built spiral staircase. They certainly did an awesome job of refurbishing this staircase during a recent refurbishment of the whole building.
There are two other staircase located off the side of the building that you can use and get images of that are just as stunning as the main one in their own way. I have included a couple of images below of these staircases.
Pimlico is the nearest tube station to Tate Britain, only about a 10 minute walk from here. Photography is allowed and again very friendly staff on hand to help.
Allies and Morrison Studio, Southwark Street, London
I really cool and modern looking spiral staircase located within the Allies and Morrison Studio on Southwark Street, would you expect anything less for an architects studio?
I took these photos during a tour couple of years ago of their studio as part of the Open House London weekend and found myself memorised by this stunning spiral staircase. I really like the tones and colours going on here, they really do work well together and certainly give the overall spiral staircase a modern feel to it. Also the inclusion of lighting around the step areas are a nice feature and accent areas that you wouldn’t normally see if they weren’t lit up.
As mentioned before I was only able to visit here as part of a tour but you never know if you ask nicely they may let you in and have a look at it. London Bridge or Southwark are the nearest two tube stations, about 10 minute walk from either.
City Hall, The Queen’s Walk, London
Another famous spiral staircase which is located within City Hall, London. The building and staircase was designed by my favourite architecture Sir Norman Foster, London has had a lot of buildings designed by Sir Norman Foster, all are stunning in their own way and City Hall is no exception. The spiral staircase is massive, by far the biggest probably in London and spirals downwards across almost the whole width of the building, top to bottom, it has to be seen to be believed. In an ideal world, for the office workers would probably not use the staircase during their day to day working as it takes longer to navigate the building using it and use the lifts instead but this shows how a staircase can be a piece of architectural art for everyone to enjoy as all the offices back onto the staircase for all to enjoy, I do wonder how many people use it during office hours?
Again I visited this during Open House London and with it being a Government building I don’t know of any times outside this when you can visit and view they staircase sadly. London Bridge is the nearest underground station and is about a 10 minute walk.
The Battleship Building, Harrow Road, London
I love the name of this building, The Battleship Building, its such an imposing and hostile name, its great and from the outside you can see features that would certainly feature on a battleship.
The story of this building is very interesting. It was originally used as maintenance depot for British Rail, I detail I really like being a train driver myself and then it had a period of derilection and then in the early 2000s was converted into office space. During all this time, there was an Art Deco style staircase located within this wonderful building. Quite unique to London, I have not seen one similar in London like this but it must have taken ages to make with all those decorative mosaic tiles, each one of them reflects the light differently. Also the use of contrasting colours really works well here and is quite usual of the Art Deco period.
Again I visited this building in Open House London about 3 years ago but sadly since then I have not seen it in the Open House London catalog since so visiting this building maybe quite slim to get photos but again always worth an email or just asking if your passing by, you might get lucky.
Paddington Underground station is the nearest to this building and is about 10-15 minute walk away.
Well thats them all I’m afraid, well for now anyway. I have forgotten how many spiral staircases in London I have taken over the last 4-5 years. There are a few more I want to photograph but just not had time or the right opportunity to visit them yet so they will appear on Part 2 of this Location Guide in the near future.
I hope you have enjoyed reading this Location Guide and its been helpful in your quest in finding some spiral staircase in London. If you get a spare minute or two feel free to share this blog post and of course if you have any questions about any of these locations or anything feel free to email me, tweet me or visit my Facebook Page.