There are many contenders for best staircase in London, but I am going to pitch this little known staircase on the Southbank for the title.

The brutalist IBM office — which could soon see a relatively sympathetic expansion — was built by the same architect as built the next-door National Theatre, Denys Lasdun in 1978. The IBM building’s terraces were made from precast concrete with a rough finish as opposed to the wood grained and lighter concrete at The National Theatre. Another difference is the extensive use of brick for the lower levels.

It’s down a narrow side passage on the eastern side that the staircase can be found.

A simple pair of stairs that run up the lower levels before merging to rise up to a small bridge that then leaps across an artificial sunken space to link with the office entrance. But just look at that astonishing boat-prow of the middle level that proudly juts out to herald the existence of the stairs amongst the fortress flatness of the rest of the building.

An otherwise unnecessary recess in the wall exists simply to frame the staircase surmounted by two tall slabs that delightfully rise up from the profile of the overbridge.

At this time of year, the orange-reds of the fallen leafs from the surrounding trees add fire to the brown steps.

Every angle that the staircase presents is perfection of design, with angles and straight lines complimenting each other and creating delightful contrasts.

Hardly anyone seems to use the staircase on my many visits past it — so seek it out, it’s an overlooked architectural delight.


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  1. John UK says:

    All pictures are blank???


  2. JM says:

    It such a shame that Brutalist architecture was not given a chance and the media was mostly anti. And that the majority of it was negligent turning people against it. Like many of our historical buildings in the 60s where knocked or covered up. We are doing the same again.

  3. John UK says:

    Pictures OK now… Thanks

  4. Former IBM employee says:

    Used to work in there – it was a fire escape as far as I can remember.

  5. Gressy 1971 says:

    One of the greatest travesties is the South Bank Centre being allowed to paint all its staircases in infantile colours and cover the rest of the building with advertising hoardings. It demeans London.

  6. Ian says:

    For people who say that the spray paint on Southbank is ruining the brutalist architecture, the company which built it and the architects were in favour of people adding art work to the walls they saw there blank walls as canvases for the public

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