Most design concepts that are used in domestic settings originate in other areas, often as ‘trickle down’ ideas that start off in high end developments and whose decreasing costs over time allow them to be used much more widely.
A perfect example of this is the current enthusiasm for homeowners to fit balustrades made from modern materials, utilising techniques and designs that were until quite recently only found in much larger settings.
The classic minimalist approaches often involve using clean lines and materials such as glass, chrome and steel and this is very much a contemporary aesthetic that is in demand from owners of properties of all construction types and eras.
It isn’t just staircases that can benefit from an imaginative use of balustrades, as both inside and outdoor areas can feature them in myriad of ways that can help to define spaces and separate distinct areas.
There are four main types balustrades which are based around glass and steel components: glass channel tube systems, frameless balustrade systems, professional glass balustrading and wire rope balustrade systems.
Each has their own unique characteristics and all can be found in some of the most imaginative and creative landmark designs around the world.
By taking inspiration from famous landmarks, anyone can utilise balustrades to make dramatic changes to their properties and achieve stunning results in terms of both functionality and visual appeal.
Fitting an ultra modern balustrade system isn’t something that can only be done in new build or contemporary style properties, as the interior of a period building can be transformed by such a modernising force as it can starkly contrast with more traditional design features which may already be in place.
With flexible design applications being a hallmark of steel and glass balustrades, there are many examples of landmarks around the world that prominently feature them. Innovations in manufacturing processes mean that the glass used in modern structures is very different from only a relatively short time ago.
The Float Glass process that was developed by Pilkington in the UK has removed limitations on the way that designers can utilise glass in large installations and alongside the adaptation of contemporary balustrades an almost futuristic level of design is now present in a wide range of popular construction projects.
Maintenance issues play a part in handrail systems popularity with architects and designers as low levels of man power and time are need to keep up long term appearances.
Millennium Bridge London
The Millennium Bridge is a 330m steel bridge linking the City of London at St. Paul’s Cathedral on the north side of the river Thames with the Tate Modern Gallery at Bankside on the south.
The Financial Times held an international competition in conjunction with the London Borough of Southwark and the Royal Institute of British Architects in 1996 to find the best design for the first new pedestrian river crossing over the Thames in central London for more than a century.
Foster and Partners/Sir Anthony Caro/Ove Aru & Partners won the competition with their proposal for a 4m wide aluminium deck flanked by stainless steel balustrades supported by cables to each side.
When it opened to the public on 10 June 2000, up to 100,000 people crossed it on the first day, although there were some initial problems which led to the nickname of ‘the wobbly bridge’. However, a complex damping system using viscous dampers and tuned mass dampers was put in place to solve the problems and the bridge finally reopened to the public in February 2002.
As it links two major London tourist attractions in St Paul’s Cathedral and the Tate Modern, the £18 million bridge has a major appeal in its own right.
Silver Jubilee Bridge Runcorn Gap
One of world’s longest steel arched bridges is to be found in the UK at Runcorn Gap. The grade II Listed Bridge runs over the River Mersey and connects Runcorn to Widnes and has more than 80,000 motorists pass over it each day.
UK galvanising specialists Pillar Wedge have been engaged in the repair and renovation of the bridge, which also features 1km of walkway balustrade. The firm’s Commercial Manager Mark Waters said that 100 tonnes of structural steel had been galvanised for use on the bridge during the work, the aim of which is to ensure the structure is fit for purpose in its continuing role as an important regional transport infrastructure landmark.
“It was essential we galvanised the steel as quickly and effectively as possible to ensure minimal disruption in a particularly time-sensitive project,” Mr Waters explained.
Myk Whitehead, Project Manager at T.P Aspinall & Sons Ltd, who were also involved in the project explained:
“The galvanising process ensures the longevity of the bridge for many years to come and means we do not need to undertake unscheduled repairs which would cause considerable disruption to a bridge which is one of the main transport links in the area.”
From public to private
These key landmarks, while just two examples of handrails in the public eye, show just how much thought and attention is given to these features – offering plenty of inspiration for your own handrail or balustrade installation in the process.