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Four stunning stairways from around the world

Beautiful, arduous, or historical steps that put modern elevators to shame.

Three years ago, a New York Times article expounded on why subway commuters shouldn’t walk on escalators, quoting researchers in London who highlighted that, to ease congestion, people ought to ride the moving steps two by two, instead of leaving one side unused for those in a rush. They must have completely forgotten to consider the alternative: stairs (but we guess nobody wants to climb at the end of a long work day).

Indeed, though they’ve largely been reduced to an afterthought, stairways are the integral backup plan everywhere, and especially for ever-higher skyscrapers with gleaming, futuristic lifts that ascend in a matter of seconds. However, somewhere before the evolution of mobility took us to this impressive age of smart elevators, inclined moving walkways and stairlifts – all of which come with the risk of a breakdown – staircases weren’t some backward invention. On the contrary, some are marvels of design with interesting histories, and all are sights to behold against the geography of their location. Here are four incredible examples from around the world.

  • Chand Baori, Rajasthan, India

    Well-cut geometry

    Chand Baori, Rajasthan, India

    Baori or stepwells (wells with steps built into their walls) are unique to India, and this stunning landmark in the arid state of Rajasthan is one of the deepest and most cavernous in the country. Located in Abhaneri, the Chand Baori descends about 30m, with 3,500 narrow steps cut into the walls of the courtyard structure that’s 13 storeys deep. Built in the 9th century, it was also a centre of religious activities, with the air at the base being 5 to 6 deg C cooler. Little wonder then it has become a tourist draw, with the precision of the step geometry and the enormous scale of it being truly exceptional.

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