In the center of the Edward Brooke Mattapan Charter School is a unique egress stair, an anomaly compared to what is a necessary, yet nondescript, element of many buildings. In much commercial construction, egress stairs are designed solely for the logistical purpose of getting occupants out in the event of an emergency. In schools, however, while still providing that code-required functionality, egress stairs also serve as arteries for student movement. Since these stairs are central to a school’s vertical circulation patterns, considering the spatial qualities of an egress stair is just as important as making sure that it is code-compliant.
This stair at the Brooke School owes its individuality to a combination of the building’s original 1911 design and the project’s pursuit of historic tax credits. The original stair was a handsome piece of construction with ornate detail and a spacious well. Its central opening was highlighted by an enormous skylight that rained daylight down three stories into the heart of the building. Because of these qualities, the stair was identified as an element with significant historical importance to be maintained as part of our renovation efforts.
This decision led us down the path of designing repairs to preserve the character of the stair, while supplementing the original construction with modern code compliance upgrades. The repair effort we have designed will involve structural reinforcement, patching and painting of the finished millwork, and a replacement of the skylight at its apex. The code compliance upgrades will involve the addition of continuous guardrails and handrails at the proper heights and modifications to the stair treads and risers to eliminate tripping hazards. The result will leverage the drama and beauty of the original design to punctuate the ordinary daily ritual of moving up and down the stairs.