15Barker Center. 6Agassiz Theatre. 14Barker Center. 4Harvard Hall. 1Fay House. 2Memorial Hall. Stairways inhabit the spaces where we live and work. Whether they’re tucked into cavities in the wall or suspended in grand ceremonial style for all to see, we travel along their treads.Preston Scott Cohen, Gerald M. McCue Professor in Architecture at the Harvard Graduate School of Design, delights in stairwells: “They bind spaces together. They’re the means of vertical spatial communication.”Dedicated to movement and human activity, the stairway uniquely guides us. Cohen said, “It’s the one point in the building where you recognize the space shaping our movement so specifically. Everywhere else we can move left, we can move right, we can move this way and that; of course a corridor directs us to move in a particular direction; however, the stair is more prescriptive, more definitive.”Single run, switchbacks, L-shaped, curved, spiral, triangular — there are many ways to describe their forms. There are slow and fast stairs. The riser-tread ratio, the proportion between the height of the riser and the depth of the tread, determines the speed of the stair.According to Cohen, the double-helix is one of the most remarkable types. The most famous example is the Bramante Staircase in the Vatican, designed by Giuseppe Momo in 1932. “The two paths are mutually exclusive. This double-ness is illusory because we perceive it as unifying. It is frustrating and thrilling at the same time.”While there are no double-helix stairwells at Harvard, there are examples in every other form and material. Glancing around the campus, stairs of marble, metal, wood, and cement spiral and cascade. Visually, they range from modest and functional to boastful and grandiose, blanketed in shadows to bathed in light. Functionally, they redirect and reorient motion and perspective.In the CGIS Knafel Building, architect Harry Cobb accomplished an impressive spiral stair. “What’s interesting about the Knafel spiral is how carefully he considered the dimensions,” said Cohen. “The problem with the spiral stair is that the step is wider at the perimeter than the center. Harry Cobb believes he has reached the correct balance between the two.”In this age of accessibility, an era of ramps, escalators, and elevators, what is the architectural sustainability of the stair? “The stairs’ time may have passed,” lamented Cohen. “This is a problem, especially for architects who love them so much. Should there really be great stairs that dominate spaces that only some people have access to?”Imagining a world without stairs is troubling for Cohen. Strong and prescriptive, “it’s the most eloquent and beautiful way to represent directional, sequential, spatial ideas … The stair is beautiful because we see it rise quickly.” He said simply, the stair is “not just an object. It’s a doer.” 7Emerson Hall. 8Memorial Church. 9Houghton Library. 16Andover Hall. 12Northwest Science Building. 10Faculty Club. 13Dudley House. 3Widener Library. 5Northwest Science Building. 17CGIS Knafel Building. 18Carpenter Center. 11Harvard Museum of Natural History.
“Open and transparent government is a priority of Governor Cuomo and I look forward to working with the Committee to continue to highlight the importance of the Freedom of Information, Open Meetings and Personal Privacy Protection Laws,” Bewlay said in a statement announcing her appointment Monday.Bewlay has a challenging task ahead of her.She’s works in a state with a long history of political corruption and secrecy. The era of electronic communication makes it more challenging to access records and easier for public officials to hide communications and records. The decline of local media and its ability to serve as effectively as government watchdogs as it did in the past has resulted in less direct oversight of government malfeasance when it comes to open government laws. And we’re living in a political atmosphere in which personal privacy is arm-wrestling against public disclosure.She’ll also face the challenge of trying to maintain independence from the executive branch of state government run by a powerful governor. Freeman often clashed with leaders in his own government, yet had managed to maintain a healthy independence under both Republican and Democratic governors over several decades, in large part because of his popularity with the press and public due to his vigorous grassroots-level opposition to government secrecy.As citizens, we must hope that Ms. Bewlay continues the strong tradition of the Committee on Open Government’s independence, advocacy for legislation that supports public disclosure and support for the public’s right to know.Click here to read an article in LoHud for more on Bewlay’s appointment.More from The Daily Gazette:Foss: Should main downtown branch of the Schenectady County Public Library reopen?EDITORIAL: Find a way to get family members into nursing homesEDITORIAL: Beware of voter intimidationEDITORIAL: Urgent: Today is the last day to complete the censusEDITORIAL: Thruway tax unfair to working motorists Categories: OpinionNew York residents have a new advocate for open government.Shoshanah Bewlay — a Vassar-educated lawyer, former general counsel for the state’s Office of Information and Technology Services, former agency records access officer, and longtime manager of the state Attorney General’s eDiscovery program — has been appointed as executive director of the state Committee on Open Government.She replaces Robert Freeman, the legendary open government guru who was fired in disgrace in June over allegations of sexually inappropriate conduct.