Stairs are good, good for you, and good for the planet. Take the stairs instead of a lift (an elevator for those of you from across the pond) and you’ll reduce your carbon footprint and improve your fitness level. So given those facts, why the hell do the architects of modern hotels and office blocks so delight in hiding the stairs away?

I saw a prime example of this at the recent Discworld Convention, held at the Hilton Birmingham Metropole Hotel. Go to the Hilton and you’ll find a rather sumptuous, marble lined lobby around which are set chairs, desks, rugs and a bank of lifts. But if it’s the stairs you were looking for, you might be a long time looking, because they’re hidden away being a very discrete door – which Jules and I only found because having found a door to the stairs on an upper floor, we followed them down to see where they would go.

Yes, that door does have “stairs” written on it, but trust me, it’s a small sign on a small door, positioned on the fringes of a very big room. Of course, what it leads to isn’t really the stairs, it’s a fire exit – which is why it’s entirely hidden behind doors and bare/basic to the point of being grotty. (All metal and painted concrete, like a multi-storey car-park).

Which is crap. Because it’s hard enough as it is to pursuade people to use the stairs instead of the lifts without:

a) hiding them; and

b) decorating them in such a way that it makes people using them feel like they’re trespassing into an area of the hotel which guests aren’t supposed to visit.

At the Discworld con you’d see people waiting for lifts when they only needed to go down a floor or two – when it would literally have been quicker to walk down, and would have taken no real effort at all. Given the way the options were presented, I can’t blame them – but to be burning electricity to increase your journey time is insane.

Can we not just have proper buildings with proper staircases? When I go into the lobby of a hotel or an office, I want to see a grand staircase leading away from me, winding its way up through the building. I don’t mind there being lifts, away to one side. But the building should be designed in such a way as to imply that the stairs are the standard, default, and intended way of getting around the building, with the lifts only there as an extra option, for those who are infirm, are carrying items, or have several floors to travel.

That would be better for us. It would be better for the planet. And it might just give those buildings a sense of the grandeur that modern buildings so often lack.

Who’s with me?