White painted staircases are everywhere, with more than half of Sydney’s streets painted in some form of modernist style.
And yet, the staircases have become an emblem of the city’s decay, with the first step down into them being a walk-up staircase.
So what’s the story behind this?
Architects are often criticised for their inability to incorporate new technology, and some even call for the return of the Victorian-style “white painted staircase”.
But a new look at Sydney’s stairs by architecture historian and author John Mabey has revealed that, historically, this stairwell was used to connect dwellings, as a form of architectural insulation and as a way of making access to the city quicker.
“The original stairway had been built in Victorian times as an insulation measure, which made it less costly to build,” Mr Mabrey said.
“So, if you went to a large house, you could walk up and down the stairs.”
You could also go up the stairs and get a view of the whole city.””
If you went up the second time, you might be able to get a glimpse of the harbour and see the shipyards.”‘
White painted’ staircases: What we know, and don’t know about themIt was the Victorian style of “white” painted stairways that, in the early 19th century, attracted attention in Sydney.”
They were the first stairway to be built in Australia, in 1877,” Mr Foy said.
And the original staircase was built at the corner of St George Street and Victoria Street in Sydney’s inner-west.”
It was originally called the ‘White painted stairs’ and it was the first type of white painted stairway built in Sydney,” he said.
In 1878, the Victorian Government installed white painted stairs to help keep people out of the Sydney harbour.”
There was a lot of pressure on people to do that because of the port, because of port-side houses,” Mr Pritchard said.”[White painted] stairs are now part of the landscape, they’re on the walls, they are on the ground floor of houses, they don’t even have stairs, they have a door,” he explained.
The first step of a white painted staircase was removed in the 1930s, when it was replaced by a painted staircase.
It was not until 1956 that the stairs were rebuilt in a more modern and modernist design.
Mr Mabsey said the staircase “saved the harbour”, as well as saving people from the “chill of winter”.”
The old staircase was not just a way to get to the harbour, it was also a way for people to get from their homes to the port and from the harbour to their families,” he told ABC Radio Sydney’s Today program.”
In the city, it’s just a shortcut.
It’s a nice shortcut from your home to the water, to your family.
“A new look: How Sydney’s ‘white painted’ stairs came to beWhite painted stairwells are the next step in a process that began with the “white coloured” staircase, Mr Maborys study of Sydney streets.
The “white colour” stairway is “a little more of a classic, classical style, with a lot more white painted over it” than the “red painted” staircase.”
Red painted stairs were built in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the first red coloured stairways were built,” Mr Cairns said.
However, “red coloured” stairs were not widely used because of concerns over the risk of infection.
Mr Foy believes “red” stairways “are not as much of a problem, because it’s the colour of the paint, not the colour on the wall.””
There is a risk of getting into your own home and getting sick.””
It’s a little more elegant and modern than a black painted staircase,” he added.”
And it’s a very elegant, very contemporary style, and people would like to have a good view of that.
“Mr Maborsey said there was no reason to think that the “White painted” stairwell would ever be “taken back”.”
We can see the history of the white painted and white coloured stairwell going back to the late 18th and 19th centuries,” he concluded.
Topics:architecture,architectural-design,urban-design-and-planning,scotland-2440,sydney-2000,sydney-airport-2020,syDNS2345,syds,newcastle-2300,melbourne-3000,vicSource: ABC News (AU)