Monday, July 2, 2012

tripped up

A subtle spatial relationship we take for granted is the regularity of stairs. The brain and legs rely on a predictable pattern of treads and risers to take us to the next level. To blow that rhythm might imply foul play on the part of builder, user or owner! In overcrowded 17th c. Edinburgh, William Grey had that in mind when he built his new home on the fashionable Royal Mile. Grey had his carpenters build stairs with an abnormally high riser in each run. His precious family would know where the beat changed, but an intruder would stumble; the clatter would warn the occupants that danger was afoot -- or that their drunken friend had arrived. The building, steps unchanged, now belongs to the city and is home to the Writers' Museum. I wonder if children who grew up in that home often tripped on the nearby Playfair Steps because the rhythm was not like that of home.