January 22, 2016 by: Ben Heimsath

We struggled this week at the office when a code reviewer insisted we add a stair to service mechanical equipment. The stair will only access one piece of mechanical equipment, even though someone can also remove ceiling tiles and get a ladder! So I have attic stairs on my mind as I’m looking through some of the photos I took when we master planned for the historic Catholic church in Shiner.


I was struck by this image of a simple but quite elegant curved stair. Ironically, this also is just a utility stair. As I recall, the stairs do lead to the organ chamber and some big storage rooms, so the use of a fixed stair makes sense, but why did someone make them so beautiful?

These stairs are behind the altar, along a corridor between other support spaces. No one would ever expect the public to visit here.   But nearly 100 years ago, even a utility stair could be a thing a beauty. Were the builders were adding extra quality because it was a church? If so, I’m pretty sure the church wouldn’t have been comfortable paying extra for fancy stairs that no one would see. Maybe the builders and the church never gave the extra design and detailing a second thought. A beautiful building must be beautiful everywhere, even in the inaccessible parts of the church.



Sacred Architecture