The Interior

the "unofficial" Duncan Hall web site

Rice University
Houston, Texas, USA

Interior Decoration

The building's interior decoration takes three forms: the shapes and colors of the structure itself, the patterning of the terrazzo floor, and the ceiling of the Main Hall. Each merits brief explanation.

Shape and Color: The interior is constructed largely of inexpensive, manufactured materials. The walls are sheetrock and fiberglass-reinforced, cast gypsum. The structural concrete is exposed in many places. The ceiling is a simple, lay-in, acoustical tile, set at a forty-five degree angle to the buildingšs grid. The balustrade rails are made from steel pipe. The only "natural" material found in any quantity is the wood of the doors.

To dress up the interior and imbue these inexpensive materials with a deeper meaning, Outram uses both shape and color. The column yokes, where a round column metamorphosizes into a cage of four square columns, stand out because of their curved surfaces. The eye refuses to believe that the smooth and changing curve of its corners is simply gypsum; it looks more expensive. The color changes on the yoke ensure that the eye "reads" the curves. Similarly, the smooth, round columns of the West Hall deceive the eye; they are built from sheetrock. The mind is prejudiced to think of sheetrock as rectangular and flat; when confronted with this curved application, the immediate assumption is that some more sturdy and expensive material was used.

All the surfaces of the interior are colored, from the floor to the ceiling. Outram uses color to make your eye "read" the curves and twists of the interior. However, it is important to understand that color is simply another arrow in the quiver of his architecture of ideas. He selects colors to convey larger ideas; each choice is fraught with symbolism.

Color is intended to convey meaning and to provoke thought. These are a few examples, to tease your mind. As you walk the building, you can search for others. This is precisely as Outram intends; the interior should stimulate thought, both conscious and subconscious.

The Floor: The public areas of the first floor are emblazoned with a terrazzo floor that depicts the river valley. It starts in the West Hall, the dancing floor at the head of the canyon. Here, the rivulets of water that flow down the stairs from the high balconies mix together on the sandy floor to form the river. The waves flow eastward down the canyon toward the delta. As the river passes under the bridge of appearances, it takes an almost cubist turn through ninety degrees. It enters the delta from the north, between the lecture halls, forms the classical three-fingered "goose's foot," and flows into the broken infinity of the ocean.

Superimposed on the valley's image is the hypostyle. This is most apparent in the Main Hall, but it occurs along the entire floor. A particularly noticeable "column scar" occurs just inside the west entry.

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