Watch where you tread: some of these stairs have been climbed by kings and princes, prime ministers and presidents. Viewed from above, a spiral staircase can appear as an ominous eye, an infinite fractal shell or a bottomless work of abstract art. Amazing staircases can be found in incredibly varied forms – including circular, triangular and square – and are made of myriad materials from stone and wood to concrete and metal.

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(Paulo Mendes da Rocha, Photo by Richard Powers via Stair Porn)
Organized by material type, this collection includes classical forms from ancient artisans and dynamic designs from all-star architects. From the most primitive and elemental spiral staircases to postmodern works of dizzying proportions, here are sixteen stellar examples of spiral staircase designs from around the world – all photographed from above.

1) Wonderful Wooden Spiral Staircases

Wooden stairs are a classic centerpiece of many an old house, mansion or estate. Some of these gain character with age and wear. Sometimes wood is used in a way that leaves its mark after the material is gone, as in board-formed concrete staircases or covered-up wooden designs.
Rihga Royal Hotel in Osaka (by Vitroids):
The Guest House (by Laura O’Halloran):
Faculty Club at Harvard University (by Ishrona):
Piece Hall in Halifax, the United Kingdom (by Tim Green):
Residential Wooden Spiral Staircase (by JDN):

2) Historic Brick & Stone Spiral Staircases

Stone and brick were once staples of spiral stair construction, particularly in castles and fortifications where stone was required to prevent fires and enhance protections. Some of these are functionally wrought while others are stylistically embellished.
Old Wood and Brick Spiral Staircase (by Erix):
Mixed Materials Spiral Staircase (by PrimeJunta):
Elegant Stone Spiral Staircase in Palacio Barola (by BLMurch):

3) Modern Metal & Concrete Spiral Staircases

Metal and concrete have replaced wood and stone as primary staircase material in the modern age, but the results are not always as straightforward, square and structured as one might expect from these normally modernist materials.
Functional Concrete and Metal Spiral Staircase (by Fukagawa):
Ljubljana Castle in Slovenia (by ScubaBeer):
Monument to the Great Fire in London, England (by PabloBM):

4) Even More Mixed Material Spiral Staircases

Elegant Spiral Staircase (by Amber Wolfe):
Colorful Vintage Spiral Staircase (by Positive):
St Stephen’s Basilica in Budapest (by PaulC):
Apartment Staircase in Hong Kong (by Ksionic):
Classic Simple Spiral Staircase Design (by BLMurch):
Modern Asymmetrical Spiral Staircase (by Abi Skipp):
Haven’t had your fill of peering down into the void? Click through for more dizzying, stylish and sleek staircases of all kinds and creative, amazing and offbeat staircases from around the world.