Wytham Chalet, Oxford University

Not all fire escapes are created equal – some are designed beautifully so that their form does not strictly follow function but enhances it.

To this end, Spiral UK created a striking yet subtle two-storey caged spiral escape on the side of a Listed Building in Wytham Woods. This unusual building belongs to Oxford University and required a series of refurbishment and regeneration works, managed by Oxford Architects, who also took these photos.

Spiral UK were invited by specialist contractors Richard Ward Ltd to design, manufacture and install this impressive stair structure which needed to suit the aesthetic but be secure to prevent intruders, a design challenge in itself, while of course meeting strict building regulations alongside even stricter listed consent restraints.

The chalet itself has an interesting story behind it – it began life as a Swiss Hunting Lodge that was dismantled brick by brick, beam by beam in the 1930s and brought over to England to be rebuilt just outside Oxford city centre. The chalet and its land were then gifted to the University in 1942 and is now used as a specialist teaching space. It needed bringing up-to-date, particularly with regards to fire safety so Oxford Architects were instructed to manage the project.

Spiral UK worked with the architects to design this double-height caged spiral that ticked all the boxes for practicalities but also blended successfully with the shapes and shadows of the surrounding woodland.

The stair was spaced well away from the structure, only touching the Listed exterior where necessary, namely the two exit points on the first and second floors. The balusters were extended to the ground to create the security fencing and an outward-opening gate at the bottom allows people out but prevents intruders going up.

The project itself took a little longer than expected – not through any fault of the contractors but the start was delayed due to bats roosting, so care needed to be taken to ensure they were not disturbed by any works!

You can find out more about this stand-out design in Spiral UK’s case study: Wytham Chalet Oxford University

With over 30 years specialising in bespoke staircase manufacture, contact Spiral UK for commercial, fit out, escape and high end residential stairs and balustrading. You can also book free online CPD with resident expert and company MD, Eric Nicholls.

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