Flights of fancy: The world’s most sublime spiral staircases

CNN  — 

Spiral stairs may seem as if they were created for the sole sake of drama and style, but the curious structure that winds from one floor to another was initially introduced with a distinct purpose.

In the medieval times, the winding staircase was actually designed to give an advantage during a sword fight.

The traditionally clockwise spiral gave the advantage to whoever is descending the staircase (presumably the owner of a home). Given that most people are right-handed, anyone trying to make their way up the stairs while wielding a sword on the right would have their movement impeded.

The spiral design was also favored because it took up a lot less space than a regular flight of stairs – and one with open steps and balustrade could also allow a lot more light.

Visitors walk on the just inaugurated sculpture "Tiger & Turtle - Magic Mountain" by German artists Heike Mutter and Ulrich Genth.

Nowadays, stairs have long ceased to be a utilitarian structure to get a person from A to B.

Designers are no longer sticking to a tight, uniform helix or corkscrew proportions have ballooned and skewed in dramatic turns.

Or, as with stairs like the rollercoaster-like “Turtle + Tiger, Magic Mountain” in Germany, the stairs loop and wind whimsically around but eventually lead back to were they came from, proving the journey really is the destination.