Three years ago, a New York Times article expounded on why subway commuters shouldn’t walk on escalators, quoting researchers in London who highlighted that, to ease congestion, people ought to ride the moving steps two by two, instead of leaving one side unused for those in a rush. They must have completely forgotten to consider the alternative: stairs (but we guess nobody wants to climb at the end of a long work day).

Indeed, though they’ve largely been reduced to an afterthought, stairways are the integral backup plan everywhere, and especially for ever-higher skyscrapers with gleaming, futuristic lifts that ascend in a matter of seconds. However, somewhere before the evolution of mobility took us to this impressive age of smart elevators, inclined moving walkways and stairlifts – all of which come with the risk of a breakdown – staircases weren’t some backward invention. On the contrary, some are marvels of design with interesting histories, and all are sights to behold against the geography of their location. Here are four incredible examples from around the world.

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