The essential purpose of a staircase is utilitarian: to facilitate ascent and descent. Yet the design of even the simplest stair is complex, requiring great knowledge, skill and ingenuity. This volume showcases the astonishing diversity of staircases over the centuries, from the stepped pyramids of the Maya to the exquisitely proportioned stairs of the Renaissance, to the elaborate balustraded confections of the Baroque period, to the virtuosic, computer-aided designs of today. A superb range of photographs, many specially taken for this publication, illustrates clear and accessible written surveys by specialist architectural historians. From Renaissance masterpieces, the sweeping curves of Art Nouveau, the functional beauty of the Bauhaus, to high-tech contemporary dream creations, the staircase is a powerful emblem of technological and artistic achievement. Architectural tours de force all, often charged with religious, mystical and hierarchical meaning, these staircases are inherently dynamic, as is every page of this fascinating and beautifully illustrated book.