Chicago Tribune — “From Spanish Steps to the New Apple Store, Stairs Provide Spatial Drama”

October 22, 2017

“Chicago architect Jeanne Gang has used bleacher seating to enliven buildings like the year-old Writers Theatre, where the stairs help furnish a striking wood-framed atrium.

‘They really wanted to encourage discussion about the plays, before and after the shows,’ Gang said in an email Friday. ‘We thought that making the steps … into a social space where people could congregate and hang out would serve this function and at the same time they could connect the theater to the street life for people-watching. … Now kids have started using the steps for studying after school, and the theater company is contemplating other uses for the space,’ including a cafe.

Fortuitously for the purposes of this column, Gang wrote from Rome, where she’s doing research. She was recently hanging out at the Spanish Steps. ‘It’s such a good example of the city as a theater—where you can use the steps to sit and people-watch,’ she wrote.

‘In general,’ she added, ‘I think there is a shift ... toward wanting ... social connectivity with other people in the place where you live. By designing ... urban steps that offer seating and sightlines you can encourage human interaction and provide a welcome invitation to be a part of a community.’”

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Photo: Steve Hall © Hedrich Blessing