FLOOR DESIGN OF MARTELL HALL.
Anywhere that one enters the whole building of Duncan Hall one treads on a 'Scripted Floor'. One walks on a surface that is not merely smooth and shiny and unlikely to trip one up. It is 'decorated' as well.
Architects have forgotten that the main purpose of an 'artificially flat' floor is to enable one's mind to concentrate on other things than climbing over broken rocks, or sinking into mud pools - hardly an intellectually rewarding activity although great T.V. footage for rubber trouser ads. Contemporary 'contrafunctional' architects are always trying to introduce 'artificially' sloping floors so as to make their buildings more 'interesting'. Designers like Gehry are Funfair architects, pretending that they will bring the user's mind to focus on ideas when in fact all they are thinking is "Why is the wall falling over and the floor going away from me?" The real truth is that everyone in the Western High Culture of the Text hates the Iconic Culture of the Public Domain so much that they would rather invent an Architecture that stopped anyone thinking in public.
So the effect of this beautiful, colourful, glossy floor, all divided and fragmented into large, abstract shapes is not to force the user to dwell on the 'interesting' (and thought-blocking) 'architecture'. It is to encourage them to move around on its 'Public Canvas', both enjoying its playful curves and straights and changes of pleasant, mellow, colour, and slowly, to begin to think on what the design of the huge floor might 'represent'.
Unfortunately, such is the state of iconic ignorance deeded to us by the 20C, they will not even know that the abstracted diagrams inscribed, indelibly and permanently, are the same diagrams inscribed, equally indelibly and permanently, into Goodhue and Cram's original Campus Plan of 1910. Nor will they know that these diagrams embody ideas that order the architectural narratives of many cultures, world-wide, and descend from the very forms of Nature that have, permanently and indelibly, 'grounded' the human species for millions of years, and will continue to carry on doing so.
Nor, unfortunately (or perhaps we should rather say, for it is indelible - fortunately - (who wants to be situated in anything too 'simple'?) is this a small matter. I begin to unravel and decipher it in the "Duncanologies" - 1 through 4, found further down this page.
After reading them, as well as the essays in the Innovations section, the reader will begin to enjoy the idea that this floor 'scripts' the coincidence of the Infinite Forest of the Hypostyle and the part of the Republic of the Valley which is the tridentine Delta and the Ocean. This floor (as opposed to the walls and ceiling of Martell Hall - which inscribe other varieties of Time), embody two of the varieties of Chronicity that we have described, elsewhere, as Infinite Time and Somatic Time.
This room is, physically, symmetrical and orderly. Its intellectual structures, via "Scripted Space", are built-into its solid body. But they will never flower into a real conceptual landscape capable of rewarding occupation by 'thinking beings' without a 'Scripted Surface' JOA have proved, without a shadow of doubt, that such surfaces are technically and financially 'run of the mill'. What is this floor? It is just 5-colour terrazzo with crushed marbles mainly from the local, Texan, Cactus Canyon quarries.
I will close by suggesting that this floor is a simple, 'minimal' statement of the most elementary ideas in Architecture. They can be developed much further. Although this is a high point in the work of JOA - perhaps, who knows the highest ever - and the cause of some astonishment all round, it is, for the project of an intellectually cultured architecture, and when compared to the past, a mere first step on the ladder.
Duncan Hall, Rice University, Houston