Fifty-seven

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Cast Iron Spiral Stair

Trinity College Library, Dublin

If you find yourself in Trinity College Library you’ll probably be looking for books — the beautifully crafted Book of Kells, a first edition of Darwin’s The Origin of Species — but the architecture of this space is something to admire in itself. The Long Room, finished in 1732 but altered in 1860, is exactly what you would expect; dark wooden cave-like alcoves line the walls, caverns, created by the piled high shelves that climb to the ceiling in two tiers. Soft light, golden in leather and wood, falls gently through each window, illuminating, but not distracting, the dark and earthy feel of the room. It is in one of these alcoves that the spiral staircase can be found. Hiding, its curves mirror all the curiosity of a library as, climbing to knowledge, it delicately winds round its central post. The cast iron metal work is deceptively delicate; the balustrade is barely there, thin and slithering, it is held only by flowering curls. This weightless feeling of structure is then reflected in the stair supports; each made of a hollowed circle, they let the light through. Amongst the darkness and depth of books and wood, the design of this staircase is perfectly balanced; elegant, its spiral twirls organically – it is a work of art in its own right, despite the wealth of its surroundings.

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