A ramp is a method of circulation. A ramp in architecture is an experience, a journey that takes you from one place to another through an array of beautifully arranged spatial elements. One never just walks on a ramp. People always like to see something, they always like to experience their surrounding, to feel, to act and interact. The placement of a ramp in an architectural design means there is a purpose to travel the distance through a longer and slower path.
Foster + Partners are responsible for the renovation of the German Reichstag in the 1990s, and their most fascinating and magnificent addition to the monumental building is the ramp that virtually weaves the glass dome around it.
The ramp not only creates a breathtaking journey up along the glass dome, but also illustrates a helix shaped monument covered by the protecting skin of glass as seen from the exterior.
Another true monument is the stepped ramp of the Vatican Museum. The element in fact falls between a ramp and a spiral staircase, starting with close steps and ending with very large treads. It actually consists of two stair cases woven around each other such that one initially sees a single rotating form but after further observation notices the two flights that rotate about and above each other with beauty that cannot be put to words.
The people walking down are using just one of the flights, indicating the presence of two separate stair cases that coexist in an arrangement still hard to understand after gazing at the photo.
A more playful example is the Penguin Pavilion at the London Zoo. One would hardly expect to find significant architecture designed for animals in a zoo. The ramps are so simple and minimal but embrace one another so delicately that the gesture in itself is the very character of the space.
In conclusion a ramp can take different forms, functions, and characters. It can speak, act, or exist gracefully. There must always be a view worth seeing on a ramp, and possibly an act worth committing. A relationship, a certain dimension of interaction between the people on the ramp is what gives it true glory. Its architecture lies in the ability to see where you've been and where you're going, what you've seen and that there's more.