So far, we have focused on the ideas and themes of Outram's architecture.
It is easy to forget that the building was commissioned to fulfill a purpose:
providing a home for the new interdisciplinary effort in Computational
An enjoyable aspect to working with Outram is his concern with functionality.
From the outset, he wanted to design a home that worked for its occupants.
The role of functionality in the design may be less obvious
than the role of architecture, but it was no less important.
Martel Hall was created to accommodate a variety of outreach functions.
In stark contrast to many Rice buildings, Duncan Hall's public
facilities are located just inside the entrance, where
they can easily be found.
To accommodate after-hours use for functions such as Continuing
Studies courses, Martel Hall and its surrounding first floor rooms
can be easily secured from the rest of the building.
The auditorium can hold a meeting of 230 people; the hall outside, with
a small catering kitchen, can accommodate various breaks and, if needed,
The auditorium is not a scheduled classroom; instead, it is reserved
for professional and outreach functions.
The classrooms and lecture halls are clustered around the hall providing
students with a space where they can wait before class and loiter to
talk after class.
The terrazzo floor is a concession to the hundreds of students who
pass through the hall each hour; they would destroy a carpet floor.
Two conference rooms are located on the hall; this makes
them easy to find for meetings and to use as staging areas for events
in the hall.
The third floor of Martel Hall has two more conference rooms and a
large meeting room, along with both interior and exterior balconies.
These rooms are clustered together to allow coordinated use.
For example, a meeting in the large conference room can use the small
conference room to serve lunch; the attendees can sit in the 16 chairs
on the interior balconies surrounding the Hall.
To create collaborations, people must interact. In the early discussions
about this project, Professor Don Johnson suggested that most collaborations
begin with casual conversation when researchers collide at a common
resource, like the coffee pot or laser printer.
Taking this notion to heart, the design team tried to lay out the
building in a fashion that encourages circulation, both horizontal and
vertical, by the inhabitants.
The interior layout tries to provide good reasons for the residents to
walk around the building.
From each office, most day-to-day activities should be convenient.
However, for each office, something is quite distant. The building features
broad staircases that rise through the public space and a short
floor-to-floor height to make the stairs an attractive option.
(The distance from second to third floor is a mere eleven feet.)
Coffee rooms, printer/copier rooms, and bathrooms are placed quite
deliberately; for example, from the second floor offices around the Main Hall,
the closest printers are on the third floor.
Similarly, from the west wing third floor, the nearest coffee pot is down the
western stair on the first floor.
Paths leading to these common resources usually include
at least one vista of the public areas, to slow people down
and increase chances for conversation.
Serious collaboration entails many meetings. Thus, Duncan Hall has a
large number of conference rooms, five smaller and two larger rooms.
It is littered with public gathering points and interaction spaces, which
Outram calls "outworking" areas.
These occur at places where people are likely to meet: at the confluence
of paths, at stair landings, on the various bridges.
Each is a space set apart from the corridor, furnished with comfortable
chairs and, usually, a table. Our hope is that these spaces will help
develop casual encounters and conversations into real technical exchanges
and, ultimately, collaborations.
Finally, the policies for managing space within the building are meant to
encourage interactions that cross departmental boundaries. Thus,
the initial office assignment was based on research affinity rather
than departmental affiliation.
Adjacency, in either the horizontal or vertical direction, is based on
an expressed interest in collaboration; in most buildings it is an
artifact of the departmental affiliation listed on some personnel form.
Duncan Hall is large; it houses roughly 10% of the faculty and a similar
portion of the graduate student population in a
collection of roughly 250 offices. The offices influenced the architecture
in significant ways. For example, 75% percent of the offices have exterior
windows. Thus, a large part of the building's skin consists of windows.
Of the remaining 25% percent; all but 11 offices have windows.
The need to cluster offices for research purposes led to the wide and
deep profile of the wings; this, in turn, led Outram to break
down the roof on the wings in an attempt to hide their bulk.
Similarly, the architecture influenced the design of offices.
The clearest examples are the "roofless" offices on the third floor and the
"porthole" offices along the north side of the street.
More subtly, the underlying hypostyle limits the number of places where a
partition wall can be placed; this results in a couple of "standard" office
shapes. Variations are introduced by the two placements of the interior
hallway relative to the office and by the presence of the "bay windows"
at the ends of wings. These occurrences create a large set of office sizes
and shapes, rather than the two sizes (large and small) that might be
To provide appropriate space for research groups, the wings are
organized into clusters. The typical cluster is a hallway cut through a
collection of larger and smaller offices. Each cluster will house a group
of faculty, research staff, and graduate students.
The clusters are somewhat isolated from the central spaces of the street
and the two halls; their narrow corridors and short ceiling height create
a sense of privacy. Most wings house two clusters, surrounding a
central resource like a laboratory, a library, or an outside balcony.
Technically Speaking: Each office has plenty of power--typically
four outlets that can supply 10A each.
Next to each power outlet is a data outlet that connects back to one of the
network wiring closets.
The initial plant for network wiring includes over 100 miles of
category 5+ twisted-pair cable and over 13 miles of fiber optic cable.
The lights in offices, labs, and conference rooms are double switched to
provide both low and high levels of illumination.
They rely on transistorized ballasts rather than electromagnetic ballasts to
significantly reduce their power consumption.
The lights have parabolic reflectors with a 55 degree
cutoff to ensure that they cannot reflect glare onto a computer display.
Even the air conditioning system is unconventional; each office has
an independent fan-coil unit, with a thermostat and fan-speed control.
The fan-coil units, in turn, can be ganged
together for scheduling from the University's Central Plant.
This combination should accommodate the diverse heat loads caused by
changes in equipment and occupancy
without requiring the "rebalancing" that plagues conventional double-duct
systems. It affords each occupant with a large degree of control of
It eliminates most of the ductwork in the building; in fact, the fan-coil
system reduced the building's height by six feet,
with a corresponding reduction in the building's skin and cost.
Since it avoids the traditional air return plenum above the ceiling,
it eliminates the need for Teflon-jacketed
network cable, a substantial saving in cost.