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Bringing the past to present

A brief History of Loft Ladders and Ladders

Our research is focused on the ladder by highlighting its diversities and its contradictions.
First of all we would like to introduce the history of ladder seen from different perspectives, emphasizing its role, its significance, and its several changes over the time.
Secondly, the ladder gives us the opportunity to address several topics as it is an architectural element which can be found in many different backgrounds: from the sacred to the profane ones and from indoors to outdoors, as gardens or houses.

Least but not last, over the centuries the ladder has been changing its role: it was firstly considered as a link between heaven and earth being also a means to get closer to gods. Then it was found in the Italian Gardens’ everyday life or inside the baroque style buildings. Or more, it is one of the main characters on the stage of American Musical of the ’30s.

Stairs as link between Heaven and Earth; cc Photo by Curnen

Stairs as link between Heaven and Earth; cc Photo by Curnen

The Ladder and its chameleonic side

In other words, it is difficult to contain ladder role in defined classes. For this reason, we can almost consider it as the main character of our life, or better we can define it as a chameleon; we have to point out that bearing on the history of the Ladder, would be like writing the history of architecture, thus it wouldn’t have highlighted the diversity of topics raised by the issue.




Stairs on pyramids in Mexico; (cc) Photo by archer10 (Dennis)

Stairs on pyramids in Mexico; (cc) Photo by archer10 (Dennis)

However, in life you tend to analyze the ladder in the formal and strictly architectural point of you, but besides this, it is necessary to look at this architectural element as capable of transmitting symbolic and emotional aspects.

Going back to the past,  Ziggurat and pyramids’ stairs specifically were means to get closer to God. They showed a long mystical ascent to the summit, whose symbolism was very strong but also the architectural meaning indicated the importance of the action was taking place: Man and his uplifting.

 Rediscovery of a legend during the nineteenth century

The reference to the birth of the ladder comes at the end of the nineteenth Century in Santa Fe (Mexico). The legend tells about a mysterious spiral staircase which was born inside the Loretto Chapel.
According to legend, it was built by Saint Joseph in person, by means of a type of an identified wood and using a still unknown architectural technique.
Unfortunately, the architect who had conceived the draft, died before he could finish it.
Once the building of the Chapel was over, they realized that a ladder, to gain access to the choir at the top, was still missing. The nuns of that Chapel, did not want a traditional ladder as it would have taken too much space, limiting the number of seats; furthermore, it would have ruined the Chapel from an aesthetic point of view.
However, after nine days of prayers, a man turned up saying that he could fix it and built the staircase. (We remind you that today, everyone can still visit it because the building is a private museum.)
What makes the Ladder a miracle tool could be its features but the real questions are: how can it stand without a support? What kind of timber is it made of? And so on: who is the mysterious carpenter who built it?

Spiral staircase, Loretto Chapel

Spiral staircase, Loretto Chapel

John Nickell, an expert researcher of American mysteries, has conducted a study on that Ladder talking about it in an article published in 1998 in the magazine The Skeptical InquirerAt first, Nickell says that the solution adopted by the carpenter is ingenious but far from being rare. In particular, we see the draft in England and in France in different kinds of contexts, as the same in Santa Fe, where it wasn’t necessary to take too much space in the room and at the same time giving a pleasant effect. However, the problem of these types of ladders is that they are not safe and neither firm. To confirm this, some of the first nuns of Loretto Chapel, scared of using the Santa Fe stairs preferred to go down the stairs by using their hands and knees. In fact, until the mid- 70’s of the twentieth century, the ladder was inaccessible due to safety problems, and today only a limited number of people can climb it in order to avoid any risk of collapse. Unlike the legend, there are several braces that allow the Ladder to stand. This leads Nickel to top off its investigation by writing that, ‘that Ladder follows the physics laws as any other common ladder’.

Transition from Renaissance to Baroque Art

Renaissance treatises have provided a set of rules to be followed in the design of stairs and have identified all the difficulties raised by its particular design. As a result, the first stairs manufactured in the world are today considered as ‘ancient’, generally tiring with small steps and high raised.
Only in the late Renaissance, stairs were adopted with low gradients inside more popular buildings. That was an item which led architects to enhance its expression rather than hide them, in order to give a conceptual, formal, and functional explanation.
On the whole, the Baroque art is the most tangible expression of this process throughout the history of architecture.


Non-Skid Technology and the evolution of loft ladders

Different styles of ladders have been adopted until today where modern environments are always looking for something which is new, functional and convenient.
Despite this, let us say more. At the moment, loft ladder represents the designed element which perfectly combines with living environments. It’s luxurious and reflects all the qualities including safety and stability, especially the FGM ladders manufacturing.

(cc) Photo by rromer

(cc) Photo by rromer

Again, the ladder is a tool made of two stages with two or more steps. At the beginning it was a wooden ladder and today it has become a retractable steel one.

Moreover, the stairs are architectural elements that work for the connection between floors located at different levels, consequently they are functional elements connecting the spaces on such floors.
Their function, that is linking environments which assume greater or less importance in the spatial allocation according to the level they are in, gives it a considerable meaning in the composition of the building or of the building complex.
Thus, the ladder becomes a symbol of tensions in the upward direction and an element of spatial continuity as well.

The ladder and a specification of its elements

Firstly the stairs consist of many horizontal planes defined “treads” located at a growing distance.
Secondly, the vertical element between the two kicks is called ‘kick or toe- kick’; a tread and a kick build together a step, while more steps make a ramp. Non-skid technology on the kick is enhanced by the particular layout of the moulding. This increases the ease of use also with the 50 size.
A stable support of the ladder is ensured by the stabilizer bar on which non-skid legs are assembled.
Thirdly, stairs which are not included between two walls are equipped with protective railing, on which there is the handrail, a continuous structure in order to support the hand of the person who climbs up or down the stairs.

The stairs are therefore, functional designed structures based on human movement of climbing or climbing up inclined planes; thereby to represent them it is necessary to know the size ratios; only from it we could gain a proper graphic understanding and rendering of it.
On the whole, the stairs according to different ‘slopes’ (angle formed by the straight line joining all the edges of the steps compared to the horizontal surface) include ramps, standard stairs (which include lightweight, normal, heavy duty or tiring ones), interior stairs and poles staircases.

For your information….

If you want to pursue the knowledge of stairs and in particular of Loft Ladders, please read the articles below you will find within our blog:

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