The General Plan

the "unofficial" Duncan Hall web site

Rice University
Houston, Texas, USA

Duncan Hall is a three story building that sits on the corner of Rice's Engineering Quadrangle. Because of its prominent location on campus, the building must address both Lovett Hall and Physics, to the south, and the remainder of engineering, to its north and west. The layout and plan of the building evolved to reflect these relationships.

The Main Entry

The front door to Duncan Hall terminates one of the critical vistas on campus-the arcade of Lovett Hall. Duncan Hall was sited by lining up the central axis of Martel Hall (from the main doors on the south to the parking lot entrance on the north) with the lamps hanging in the center of the Lovett Arcade.

Since, in some sense, Duncan terminates the arcade of scholars along Lovett, Outram left room on the entry facade for relief sculptures of four final scholars. The thought, at the time, was that we would fill these with four people who played a critical role in the development of computation and its application to engineering. For a variety of reasons, including cost, the sculptures were dropped from the project. The frames, however, remain.

The Engineering Quad

Approaching Duncan from the Engineering Quad, you enter an arcade at the corner by Abercrombie Laboratory. The eastern wall of the arcade lines up with the exterior wall of Abercrombie, leaving open the possibility of connecting these two buildings with an exterior arcade. How did Outram match the disjoint alignments of Abercrombie and Lovett, given that the basic 18 foot 8 inch module of Duncan was already fixed? If you look closely at the joint between the southeastern wing (housing the main entrance) and the body of the building, you will notice a column that is almost doubled. This so-called "double-bubble" contains the extra length required to reconcile the Lovett Hall arcade, the face of Abercrombie, and the building's internal grid.

Setback from Laboratory Row

Duncan Hall sits behind a majestic row of live oaks. Some distance was required to ensure that the trees had healthy root systems. The question was, how much.

To determine the setback from the street, the board aligned the centerline of Duncan's arcade with the centerline of the arcade on the George R. Brown Laboratory. That is, if you knocked down the old Chemistry Building (now the Keck Laboratory), the two arcades would be aligned.

Interior Plans

To accomodate all of the offices, laboratories, and classrooms on this constrained site, Duncan Hall has a set of narrow serpentine halls lined with offices. The floor plans show the general layout of the building.
  1. The first floor shows the classrooms, auditoriums, and two conference rooms around Martel Hall, the long street lined with offices, and the outposts for the Dean's suite and the Symond's teaching center. (It occupies the wing labelled "E.C. Laboratory.)
  2. The second floor houses offices, laboratories, the top of the auditorium, and some common spaces. The cliff-hugging hallway along the street is one of its best features.
  3. The third floor has even more offices and laboratories. The top of Martel Hall, is ringed with public spaces-two conference rooms and the bridge. The three labs to the east of Martel Hall were actually built as a single open room. It seats roughly fifty for meetings or meals.

These plans do not show room numbers. Rooms are number consecutively, starting at the elevator in the West Hall and running counter-clockwise around the building. Since all three floors have a different number of offices, the numbers do not line up vertically. (For example, rooms at the main entrance are numbered 1046 on the first floor, 2063 on the second floor, and 3076 on the third floor.)