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Stairway to Heaven

The "Stairway to Heaven" pattern, as described by Robert Martin, is a software design pattern that addresses the challenge of adapting an entire class hierarchy to another class, while maintaining reusability and avoiding the pollution of the hierarchy with application-specific details. Let's break down the key aspects:


  • Network of Inheritance Relationships: This pattern is about creating a system of inheritance relationships to adapt an entire class hierarchy to another class.


  • Class Hierarchy Reusability: The core idea is to maintain the reusability of a class hierarchy. For instance, consider a payroll system with classes like Employee, SalariedEmployee, and HourlyEmployee. These classes should focus on their specific abstractions (e.g., payroll calculations) and not on application-specific details (e.g., database operations).
  • Separation of Concerns: By keeping database-related methods out of these classes, the classes remain reusable in different contexts where the same database might not be used.


  • Creating a New Set of Classes: To achieve this separation, a new set of classes is created. These classes inherit the ability to interact with a specific database engine and also include methods that model the payroll abstraction.
  • Maintaining Separation: This approach ensures that the original payroll objects remain separate and reusable, as they are not tied to a specific database implementation.


  • Use of Virtual Inheritance: The pattern suggests using virtual inheritance (a concept from C++, but with equivalents in other languages) to prevent the repeated inheritance of base classes. This is important to ensure that there's only one copy of all base objects in any derived objects.


  • Isolation of Concepts: This pattern is particularly useful when you need to ensure that reusable class hierarchies remain clean and not intertwined with application-specific concepts.

In the context of TypeScript, which you commonly work with, this pattern could be implemented using TypeScript's class and inheritance features. However, TypeScript does not support virtual inheritance like C++; instead, it uses prototype-based inheritance. The key idea would be to create a new set of classes in TypeScript that inherit the necessary features from the base class hierarchy and add the application-specific functionalities.

TypeScript Tip

When implementing a pattern like "Stairway to Heaven" in TypeScript, it's important to leverage TypeScript's strong typing and class features to enforce the separation of concerns. You can create interfaces to define contracts for your base classes and ensure that the new classes adhere to these contracts while adding their specific functionalities. This approach maintains code clarity and reusability.

Most similar patterns

The "Stairway to Heaven" pattern, focusing on adapting a class hierarchy for reusability while keeping application-specific details separate, shares similarities with several other design patterns. Here are some of the most similar patterns:

  1. Bridge Pattern:

    • Similarity: Separates an abstraction from its implementation, allowing the two to vary independently. This is akin to the "Stairway to Heaven" pattern's separation of the core class hierarchy from application-specific details (like database interactions).
    • Use Case: Commonly used when both the class and what it does can change, often seen in GUI frameworks where a Widget class might have different implementations on different operating systems.
  2. Decorator Pattern:

    • Similarity: Adds responsibilities to objects dynamically, enhancing their functionalities. This is somewhat similar to extending a class hierarchy with new capabilities without modifying the original classes.
    • Use Case: Useful for adding features to objects without affecting other objects of the same class, as seen in adding scrolling or border functionalities to UI components.
  3. Adapter Pattern:

    • Similarity: Allows incompatible interfaces to work together. This is like adapting a class hierarchy to a new interface or set of requirements.
    • Use Case: Common in systems where new components need to be integrated with existing code, such as adapting a new type of payment gateway to an existing checkout system.
  4. Strategy Pattern:

    • Similarity: Enables selecting an algorithm at runtime, akin to selecting different implementations or behaviors dynamically, as you might in adapting a class hierarchy.
    • Use Case: Useful when there are multiple ways to perform a task, and the best method depends on the context, such as different sorting algorithms based on the size and nature of the data set.
  5. Facade Pattern:

    • Similarity: Provides a simplified interface to a complex subsystem, which is somewhat related to making a complex class hierarchy accessible through a simpler interface.
    • Use Case: Often used to create a simple interface for a complex set of classes, like a library or a framework.
  6. Composite Pattern:

    • Similarity: Composes objects into tree structures to represent part-whole hierarchies, creating a uniformity between individual objects and compositions. This can be seen as a way to manage complex class hierarchies.
    • Use Case: Common in representing hierarchical structures, like graphical user interfaces or file systems.
  7. Template Method Pattern:

    • Similarity: Defines the skeleton of an algorithm in an operation, deferring some steps to subclasses. This allows redefining certain steps of an algorithm without changing the algorithm's structure, akin to adapting parts of a class hierarchy.
    • Use Case: Useful in frameworks where certain steps of an algorithm are invariant, while others are variable, like in data parsing frameworks where the parsing algorithm is constant, but the format-specific details vary.

Each of these patterns shares the fundamental principle of managing complexity and promoting reusability in object-oriented design, similar to the "Stairway to Heaven" pattern's goal of adapting and reusing class hierarchies.

TypeScript Tip

When implementing these design patterns in TypeScript, it's crucial to leverage TypeScript's advanced type-checking and object-oriented features. For instance, TypeScript's interfaces and abstract classes can be very useful in implementing patterns like Strategy, Bridge, and Template Method, where defining common interfaces or base classes is key. Remember, the goal is not just to implement the pattern but to do so in a way that maximizes code readability, maintainability, and type safety.