City Hangout – Swirly Staircase, Satyam Plaza, Gurgaon
More than just a fire exit.
[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
There was a time when the staircase was not reduced to the status of a mere fire exit. Although it is difficult to believe this truth in a place like Gurgaon where residential apartments, high-rise offices and gigantic shopping malls offer multi-floor navigation exclusively through escalators and elevators, with the poor staircases hidden behind discreetly-positioned service doors painted with the words… well, Fire Exit.
So it is delightful to find a shopping complex in the heart of the city that offers staircase as a principal attraction of its architecture — right in the front.
The building itself — it came up about two decades ago — is not even close to the gleam and glamour of the city’s newer structures. The four-storey Satyam Plaza in Civil Lines is drab and sleepy, housing one-room establishments of software firms, electrical goods and career agencies, with one of them promising “100 per cent job placement”.
You may, of course, wish to avail these services but it’s the building’s staircase you may end up falling in love with. Spiraling around in steep angles like an unwinding spring, this flight of stairs is like high-heeled sandals that look very stylish but aren’t convenient for casual walks.
The steep steps are of varying sizes forcing you to be careful during the climb. The structure is so swirly that your entire body has to turn at every step you take. Furthermore, the stairs seem to be detached from the building as if protruding into the air on their own volition. On climbing higher you feel you are gradually leaving the solidity of the known world. Things appear slightly dizzy, similar to the feeling of riding on ropeway trolleys in hill stations.
While going up these stairs, try stopping midway to look down at the fellow humans scurrying around like ants on the road. You were one among them just some minutes ago but now you have removed yourself from the rat race and discovered its ultimate banality. (The wisdom dissipates as soon as you get down).
Though these stairs seem too decorative for practical purposes, they are the only connections between the building’s various floors. The elevator doesn’t work.
It is also noteworthy that these stairs can never be truly useful as a… well, fire exit.
An ode to staircase