DUNCAN HALL, Rice University, Houston, Texas.

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The job of a Practitioner is different to that of the Historian or Critic. The Practitioner has to invent what has never previously existed. Every moment of Time is novel, and erases what has gone before. It is only the critical mass of living beings that creates continuity and gives rise to tradition. But all such traditions, in that they are supported by human beings alone, are mortal. This is known to those who practice genocide, a practice as old as culture itself. For it is not the beings that they wish to kill, but their culture.

Every act, within such a precarious living continuity, is both an affirmation of the inheritance as well as a battle to survive, as a new being, against the Culture's tendency to endlessly recycle approved solutions. How novel should be the new? And in what way? Such questions lie at the foundation of every Practitioner's work, even of the most banal and constrained kind. It is what 'makes us tick'.Following on from this, the Practitioner has to persuade hundreds of people to follow his ideas. These are ideas that, at the beginning of any project, must be largely intuitions (founded, we may hope upon experience, if not genius - which is why little successful invention occurs to Practitioners before the age of 40), but (always novel) intuitions nevertheless.

The Historian and Critic is presented with what has already been built. They invent nothing beyond their own ideas. Whereas the Practitioner has to persuade mostly people from outside his own cultural sphere, the only people who 'critique' Critics and Historians are people from inside the 'emperor's palace' of their own discipline. In the case of the Historian, the Author of the Work is not even alive to tell her, or him, that the Historian is writing nonsense. Not that it is considered 'proper' for Practitioners to 'reply' to Criticism. It is not even considered correct for a Practitioner to 'explain' his, or her, own work. Could this be because the Practitioner is understood to have no capacity for literary output. Yet no one has to develop greater capacities to wheedle and persuade than the Architect piloting a 'mere' idea towards its real embodiment at the hands of many and divese persons. Why should not this silver-tongued advocacy be disciplined towards philosophy? Does not the Critic have to charm the fickle reader of the ephemera that carry his texts? Even the Historian wants to be read rather than merely published by his University Press and disappear into some alphabetical vault.

Yet , such is the terminal state of illiteracy to which the 20C reduced Architecture in its drive for 'Modernity' (why should being 'modern' mean being illiterate?) that the successful Practitioner is held (for it must surely a precondition of practice itself) to be illiterate himself. But if that is so, why trouble to feed the undergraduate Architect an increasingly rare and rich diet of Critical Theory, or to press the dried concrete flowers of every 'textually challenged' Practitioner between increasingly heavy slabs of 'bought-in' Philosophising?

What can be less promising than the present situation? A small bureau of Practitioners, increasingly partly located on the chaos of the building site, struggle to order and control an 'over-managed' (and under-directed) building industry that prides itself upon proving that construction goes faster and cheaper if the Architect is sacked, or replaced by a mere Graphic Illustrator adept in the possibilities of carved and rendered polystyrene. On the other hand, the Architectural Theory (which must be the backbone of intellectual steel which is needed to stiffen the Practitioners resolve, illuminate his mind, fuel his technical invention and inspire the tongue with which he must either charm, persuade or merely order the forces that still, even at this late hour, look to him for leadership) is forged by Professors, Critics and Historians (and even out-of work physicists, social historians and musicologists) whose pride it is that they distance thamselves as far as possible from the field of battle. What do such Academics, imprisoned by the need to charm engaging but unread and inexperienced teen age neophytes, know of the needs of the hard-pressed Practitioner? They know Philosophy, for sure (one must at least hope for that). But of our needs, unless they once struggled with the Medium as practised today, they really know nothing more than the average householder bemoaning the absent Plumber. A Company Director who has built his own factory, however bluntly banal, has a better sense of the needs of Architectural Philosophy than the people who teach Architecture today, and write its contemporary theory.


The only resort is for the tribe of Practitioners to write the Theory that they need in order to recover the intellectual capabilities once inherent within all Architecture, and by this one means all building, and all of the human lifespace, not just the refugee camps of High Camp found in Museums.

And the very first place to 'write' these ideas is in, and on, are our buildings themselves. We not only have to take back theory from the tribe of Professional Puffers. We have to take back the essential media in which theory is made most explicit, namely 'decoration'. "Scripted Surface", instead of being the (intellectually and ethically) 'dirty' medium of 'interior decoration' should become every Practicing Architect's intellectual home turf, the tool with which he raises Architecture to the level of Art without making a mockery of the practicalities for which he is hired. No longer must it be the case that the Practitioner remains confined within the job-description of a mere 'plumber of space', while any intellectual 'surface' is given over to be trivialised by the gratuitous confections of an architecturally unread 'Artist'. It is not in books that the Practitioner 'proves' his Architectural Theory, but in Buildings. The Book explicates the Building, not the reverse, as occurs in the Architectural Academy today, where the unfortunate Student (denied the Architectural medium itself - wholly taboo in any self-respecting School), repairs to his computer and tries to invent the plastic algorithm that will, in some way, explicate his recent Critical Theory lecture on 'the counterformal imperative of the decentred gaze'.

And so it is, in accordance with what I have just writen, that I freely admit that up until this point in my 'Duncanologies', everything that I have offered to you, my Reader, has been in the manner of the Critic and the Historian, mere bluff. It has all been promises, hypotheses, just words, words, words. Interesting, perhaps, (outrageous even) but lacking the absolute proof of being built according to my design.

Now we come to the 'showdown'. Now I must 'put my cards on the table (well, may we say entablature)'. Can I persuade you that the claims that I have made have, in fact, been built into real facts?

Here and now, I can only show you photographs of this 'absent reality' on the Web. If you need, like doubting Thomas, more 'proof' JOA have a video. But the only way, in the end, is to go to the 'scene of the crime' and check it out for yourself, especially by talking to the people who use Duncan Hall.


Making an iconologically-structured campus is not, either in the beginning, or in the end, very expensive in dollars. Rice's Campus Plan was created by not more than ten people, in 21 weeks, back in 1910. Since that time an almost uncountable number of hours has been spent, by many sorts of people, thinking about how to realise this great plan. The capital cost, at the time it was made, was not huge. After that it was planting trees and laying down paths and roads, drainage, lighting, some sculpture and so on.

The big thing in Campus Planning is to have got the Plan right, back in 1910 (or 1610, or whenever it was. This is one field in which mere age means nothing, nothing at all. The Campus Plan of Rice has infinitely more conceptual potential than the town plans of either Cambridge or Oxford. But then the idea that a city could be a 'machine a penser' is not a very English idea. The 'picturesque' is the English Thing. Which is odd for a country with such a very domestic and demure terrain. All rather 'miniature'. But then I was raised in Lutyens's Delhi.


The nail-biting starts when when a Campus starts to build. Then the dollars really start to flow. 'Building Footprints' begin to fall into the 'gumbo' which can last for many, many years. Putting a foot wrong on the Campus Quadrille can be a mistake from which recovery is slow, if not impossible. Although one has to admit that in Houston, the possibility of erasing a false step is likelier than on any British Campus. This may stem from the Texan custom of demolishing a building as soon as the rent stops flowing. Whatever the reason, the 'Bonner Nuclear Research Laboratory', the previous occupant of the site of Duncan Hall, is now totally erased. It has to be said that it was not much of a building.


It goes without saying that the Professors of the Faculty of Architecture campaigned to have it preserved as a 'truly Modern' (1940's) building. I was glad to see it go. Its inadequacies were due to the fact that its design was not derived from any 'canonic' idea of what a building is, but from exploiting the eccentricities of a particular 'function', which, in this case, could be exploited to produce a tall tower and several high blank walls, all without windows. This made it hard to use for anything except cracking atoms. The 'image' of the building was very 'De Stijl". But buildings have more to do than litter a Campus with fashionable images, especially one's past their sell-by date (but newly coveted by 'Historians of the Modern Movement'). Its demolition showed the shortsightedness of pursuing the typical 20C 'bottom-up' revolutionary functionalist design strategy.

A variation on the 20C fundamental revolution 'de novo', is continuous fundamental revolution 'de-novo'. An example of the latter was the famous California Schools Project prototype of a shed with moveable walls. This kind of architecture is very appealing to the taste of young architect-mechanics who imagine themselves using their rudimentary knowledge of auto-maintenace to solve the problems of the humane lifespace. The 'continuous spatial revolution' model results, in a few years, in a thing that all of its users want to trade-in. The machinery breaks down, its performance standards decline sharply (sound insulation, and so on). All one gets is slab sided boxrooms with scratches on the walls and ceilings.


Duncan Hall, to the contrary, has been designed around a 'canonic' concept of 'built lifespace'. A great variety of 'lifespace habitats' has been 'built into' Duncan Hall. This is the opposite of being 'physically flexible'. Human beings have legs. They can move to a place that suits the function they wish to effect at that moment, and then walk to another. It is easier than moving very expensive mechanical walls.


These things are obvious to the non-architect and have emerged in the new lifespace strategy of 'Hot-desking". But Architects like to maximise in-built mechanical complexities because Professionals feel secure if they are working in a medium in which their knowledge is superior to that of the Client. The fact that it might be inferior to some tribe of Engineers, who could arise to displace the Architect, as happens time after time consequent to Modernity's invention of some technical superfluity, thus removing the Architect still further from his place of authority ( - this tendency, which has reduced the technical overview of the Architect from 83% to 12% of the building budget, is explored further in the section on "surface" in Ordine Robotico "The Talking Order") always escapes my Profession, so desperate has it become to find some 'advanced technology' to justify its continuation.


The first requirement of a literate lifespace is that it be capable of receiving the impress of the stylus. One must, as does the unemployed son in N.F.Simpsons's play, "One Way Pendulum", make the paper on which one writes. In reality, of course, this is a joke, meant to illustrate the illiterate's enthusiasm for the material impedimenta. The real prerequisite of writing, or 'parole', is the language itself, or 'langue'. Yet the 'langue' of Architecture was gagged at the beginning of the 20C, through which only muffled cries have percolated until final asphyxiation under the knife of 'deconstruction'. The condition of writing is the presence of langue and the absence, or more properly the witholding, the deliberate silence, of parole. Into this 'clear void' words may enter and be heard for what they are, reverberating though the entirety of the langue, as words which have within them all other words.

This 'positive silence is, when translated into the Architectural Medium, what I called the 'Space of Eternity'. I referred to this in Duncanology Three: "Hypostyle-Garden". I said that I would reserve writing about this until I came to the building itself, in which its existence could be proved to be intentional, rather than merely 'critically-conjured', as in Rice Campus itself (lacking the testimony of its Author, who is dead and left no written 'decipherment'). This stage h as now arrived and the "Empire of the Forest" has been added ; Midsummer 2000).

For any Architectural Object to be more than merely itself, that is for it to act, also, as a carrier wave for the rarer information that constitutes intelligibility, it must reach out and work in Media that are not merely given to it by the chance of its natural existence. Thus it is not enough for an architecture with intellectual ambitions to merely demonstrate a command of material, or sunlight, or plastic form, or spatial manipulation. The contortions of a Gehry or a Liebeskind evoke no questions in the mind that require an answer outside of their patent athleticism. They are what they seem to be, extraordinary contortions in the 'native' media of building, that is to say: material, light, space and plastic form.


For a question to occur of the form "how can I 'read' this potentially intelligible apparation?", there has to be present both the superfluity of the 'apparition' to the 'natural' media of building together with the likelihood of its successful decipherment. It must be obvious to anyone not already imprisoned inside the 'emperors clothes' of Architectural Critical Theory that it is not at all interesting to 'read' the merely constructed delineations of just walls, roofs floors and so on, however craggy, dizzy, warped, or sublimely (?) sleek they may have been turned. The 'reading' of this Bricoleur's Baroque is known, today, as the Hermeneutics of Experience. It is a cross that the hired philosophers of Architecture must carry if they are to serve out their terms of tenure. It is as edifying as the distorting mirrors of a fairground.

We need, therefore, something in the medium that we build, that is neither a grotesque imposition upon it, like the 'neon-sign alphabetical captions' proposed by Jane Rendell <FAQ Intro>, nor an elephantine contortion of its pragmatic imperatives - like a design by the Architect whom she criticises for his unintelligibility - Daniel Liebeskind. The 'imposition' that JOA make upon the innocent nativity of normal building is to merely decorate its 'natural' surfaces - its walls, floors and ceilings. This decoration is, at its most minimal, merely latex paint, mere coloring. Its further elaboration, with more than one colour leading on, via pattern, to the delineation of figures, is equally modest, being, at this time in technical development, an extension into building of techniques already in adequate existence in the printing industry.


All of this we have 'proved' at Rice. Every colour is coherently symbolic on the interior of the Public parts of Duncan Hall, and on most of its exterior as well. The effect of this is to change what would otherwise only be a built landscape with the inherent possibility of an intellectual dimension into one whose intellectuality has been made 'real'. The borderline between these two states can only be crossed when the form is decorated. The form itself is too generic. A balustrade that is a mere wall of cement, or a sheet of glass, says only that it exists as a physical obstruction. The one is visually patent. The other, the piece of glass, pretends to be 'visually absent'. but the game it plays is still merely physical, and intellectually unambitous, if not dumb to the point of idiocy. A spandrel, or railing, that is formed, and coloured, to refer to the 'architectural literature' of balustrading, cancellation and the adumbration of limits, is one that has expanded, on the other hand, into the limitless space of textual intellectuality.

Let us pause, and explore this proposition before coming to the rich foods of the main menu.


The Abbe Laugier, whose ideas I explore in the text of my drawing of the "Voyage of Arcadia" regarded walls and windows as superfluous to the architecture of his 'Primitive Hut'. How would he have regarded the wall under the window, or the 'spandrel' as this component is properly termed? Clearly it also registers as a lowly element of mere necessity, when measured against his primal Architectural toolbox of columns, beams and pediment - the attributes of the Ancient Hellenic Temple, paradigm, to the 18C, of Architecture itself. What would Laugier have thought of the cities of the 20C, composed, as many of them largely are, of gigantic monoliths layered-up entirely of strip windows. Entirely divested of columns and sporting only those plebian instruments of an impoverished need - mere windows and their spandrels, Laugier would have considered the mid and late 20C skyscraper an essay in brute necessity extended into an infinitum with no hope of any ultimate reward to the intellect.

But was Laugier correct in his valuation of Hellenic Architecture? Why should walls and windows and railings be so downgraded when they are so essential to the reality of, if not the 'Primitive Hut' than at least to the 'useful dwelling'? The 20C Functionalist Morality demands to be persuaded of the 'abomination of the wall'. After all, who really wants to live in a columniated Garden Ornament and even pass their time in the Eternal Picnic of the late 18C? We know that the Greeks had walls and windows. Did they not have railings? Here it has to be admitted that, at least in their monumental stone Architecture, railings are notably absent. Maybe they were all made of bronze, and have been looted. But they had raised platforms around their buildings, and none of these appear to have been fitted with constraining balustrades of stone. If the spectators fooled around during a play, or at the gymnasium, the overflowing crowd just tumbled over the edge of any raised stone terrace. Nor can it be that they were incapable of the manufacture either of precisly cut stone articles nor the metal fixings required to restrain them to the ground.

What is easy to forget in the increasingly 'lawless' public realm of today is that the spaces of an Ancient community were defined by taboos that were stronger than any fence. Death was the penalty for crossing the furrow cut by the plough that inscribed the circuit of a city wall. This severe punishment remained aimed at the transgression of the idea of the inviolable boundary drawn by the first breaking of the ground, rather than actually penetrating the huge walls of stone that might be raised upon it in later years. What need had a culture for fences when an impalpable wall could render its transgressors taboo, that is to say free for any Roman citizen to kill!

The typical fence or railing of the Ancient Greeks and Romans, as seen in wall paintings, coins and other illustrations, was a pair of crossed spears or, alternatively, a trellis-lattice set on the diagonal. The name for it, in Latin, was 'cancelli'. The Attorneys of the Ancient world had no erasers. When they wished to remove a word from their documents they struck it out with a series of diagonally-placed crossed lines. This was called 'cancelling'. The Classical railing was a 'cancelling' of the way through that would be available, were the balustrade not there.

The word "balustrade" is usually given, in etymological dictionaries, as deriving from the shape of the pomegranate flower. This is called a balaustion , in Greek, and would be pronounced "valaustion", or "valafstion". Hand-railing, on the other hand, comes from the Latin regula, a rule or straight thing. That, at least, rings true. The history of the word "Banister" is so confused that it is not worth repeating. It was considered bad English until the 19C and confused with Barrister, (or Attorney-at-Law)!

The received etymology of "Balustrade" is implausible because of its anachronism. Why does the name of an element, not invented until the 1500's, derive from a language current 2000 years earier? Perhaps it was named after the Greek name for a pomegranate flower in order to give to give it a "Hellenic " catchet, and raise it above the status of the fence or railing, an essentially practical, military, agricultural and domestic element of building which it mainly was in Classical times. Renaissance Architectural Theorists, when they wished to elevate an architectural device to the status of a canonic original, liked to give it a Greek name.

The only objects that I have found standing between columns (in a far-from-exhaustive research), that we would recognise as a balustrade today, are upon a coin of Emperor Elagabalus struck between 219 and 222 A.D. The picture describes the temple to Jupiter Sol in Emessa from which the fourteen-year old Emperor brought the epiphany of his civic god to Rome in the form of a huge black aerolith. His "balustrades" have the the "pregnant" figure of the Renaissance. Is it conceivable that, contrary to received opinion, the 'Renaissance' balustrade existed in ancient times, but being unique to the cult and name of the young, and short-lived Emperor Heliogabalus, both took his name and failed to become widely used? Stranger histories are true.

Coming forward to the earliest balusters of the Renaissance, as we can see them in such buildings as the Ducal Palace of Urbino, the paintings of Jerome Carpaccio, and the Venetian buildings of the Codussi, one is reminded more of chair legs and table legs, that have been opposed to make them symmetrical, rather than the latticed figures of an Ancient railing. Is it possible that we have been standing framed by Greek columns, since the 15C, but "balustraded" by Romanesque colonnetes that have been hybridized with Roman chair legs and Syriac railings imported by an eccentric young Emperor voted into power by bribed Legionaries?

To derive the form of the Balustrade, and the meaning of the word, from the legs of Classical tables or the seeds that Persephone ate in the underworld is too unsatisfactory an explanation for an architectural feature that did not figure anywhere in the architecture of the Classical Greeks. In one word, the Renaissance got it wrong. The form of the column and the entablature have been "right", but that of the balustrade, "wrong". We can not progress the history of this element in Modernism without abandoning both the Renaissance form and the Renaissance etymology.

We should seek a more direct route to the meaning of the word and, through it, to the meaning of the true, Ancient, form, colour and decoration of the Balustrade. When we find this, we will be able to re-use it for ourselves, in a modern way.

My own idea as to the meaning of balustrade derives from the observation that "B's" and "V's" sound very similar in Greek. Indeed there is no "V" in that language. The English, or Latin, "B" is, phonetically, a "P" or P, in Greek.

The nearest Greek word, to Balustrade, and baluster, is "palos", or palos. This is a Byzantine, post-Latin, word meaning a stake or a fence of stakes, such as the army erected at night around a camp. In the older, Classical, Latin this kind of fortification was called a "vallum". This would sound like the phonetic pronounciation of "vallustrade". It would frequently have included a ditch, especially if the camp was in country where there were no handy trees. It would have been made more impenetrable by weaving bushes, especially thorny ones, between its vertical members.

Palus gives us "palisade" which is phonetically close to Balustrade. But what about the "strade on the end of the word?" Therefore we could propose that Balustrade derived mainly from Palus and Vallus, a wall of stakes, woven with withies and bushes, and a ditch.

If this interpretation is even part-sound, then an etymology of the word "Balustrade" begins to adequately describe its ancient, and, even, continuing, function. But is this enough for us? What is its modern identity? Is it anything more, to us, than something to merely stop us from falling off the edge of an open floor, a job that can be performed equally well by a chicken-wire fence or a sheet of glass?

Every period of history has used the elements of architecture to script their world. It is the proposition of my kind of architecture that we can continue to use architecture to do this, if we want to. It is not the medium that stops us, but our own hesitance, perhaps even reluctance, to "tell ourselves stories about ourselves".

Our own age is not intimately acquainted with spears around occasional army camps, nor even with the symbolism of the pomegranate flower. We are however, concerned to adjust our civilisation so as to live within the given forms of reality that Science is foremost in defining. The Balustrade, in our time, can be used to define, for us, what we see as the "limits" to our "camp" which is the Earth itself. This does not mean that we accept those limits. To know a law, a boundary, or a limit, is not to accept it. What is important is to become aware of it and to know that one is "transgressing", and act accordingly. To the Ancient Greeks the greatest crime was wilful ignorance, for that destroyed the "istoria", the drama, even the "crime", of history.

The material of the balustrade of Duncan Hall is standard, parallel-sided, steel tube, welded into a rectangular frame. Even if we stripped and polished it until it shone, we could not disguise its plain material and simple, brutish forms. Then there are its reasonably tidy, but none-too-appealing welds and its crinkly wire infill, set parallel to the floor for cheapness, as opposed to on the diagonal, as in the Judge Institute, thus connecting back to the more 'truly Ancient' form of the 'cancelli'.

Yet, for all of this material and geometrical banality, if we only paint it some simple colours we can get it to carry a cargo of fascinating ideas. If we paint the handrail black (a practical colour for greasy hands) it can sign the horizontal posture of the "camp" at night. If we paint the kick-plate "witching hour" (the name of the paint colour!) as well, it will absorb dirty shoe scuffs and again represent the horizontality of the night hours.

The vertical baluster, a slender shaft of hollow steel, exactly parallels the form, and the hollowness, of our "Robot-columns". Our columns are cored with power. This is most clearly represented by imaging them as a shaft of vertical light, one of their most ancient and potent significations. Verticality is also the attribute of the day, and of wakefulness and action. The colour for all of these would be somewhere around white, and yellow up to red.

Our first colour-scheme for the interior of Duncan Hall, back in 1994, painted the balusters red, or pinky-red. The present scheme paints them sand yellow. In Cambridge, in 1991, my first colour scheme had the balusters white. They were changed, in 1994, to an iconographically-illiterate baby blue. But then much of that interior was placed into the hands of persons who both had no knowledge of the iconographies of Architecture, and, such is the enthusiasm of most parts of the British Establishment to remain ignorant of Art, no desire at all to learn. In this the American establishment is notably different. So, also, are the people for whom JOA have designed in Europe. Only the British remain almost entirely ignorant of the role that Art and Design play in the functioning of the Modern State - as defined by its inventors 500 years ago.

After that, by painting the frame blue and the crinkly squares green, I embody the idea of the ocean girdling the green fields (especially the rectangular green fields of America, as I fly over them from England and recall its foundation at the time of the Enlightenment and the 17C cult of reason). At a more abstract level the blue frame and the orthogonal lattice can stand for the encircling ocean of endlessly cycling time girdling the fragment of space that is the 'Garden of Eden' (to which we will turn next), the Orchard planted by God in which neither Time or History have yet intruded - in short the earth as the primordial island of pre-natal innocence.

It appeals to me that the lowly architectural element of the balustrade, despised by the 18C Neo-Classicists, indeed nowadays a mere cow-catcher of a thing, yet sufficiently costly (for there are thousands of feet of it around the edges of the 'Republic of the Valley') can, through a superficial paint scheme that explicates a deep reading of its iconic culture, be changed from a crude piece of iron into something that can inscribe the idea that the limit, barrier and end-point of our 'modern' lives is the Earth itself, girdled by its oceans and the metrical beat of its solar chronicities.

How else do we imagine that the gross material machinery of the increasingly artificial 'mediated', technically complex world that we are making for human habitation, can be rendered acceptable to an intelligent, thinking, being except by the alchemy of decoration and the transmutation of base matter into conceptual gold through the philosopher's stone of iconic engineering? It is only when our lifespace engineering becomes comprehensively impregnated by a symbolic capability that it will become maximally efficient, for it will become capable of being made out of anything. And it is only when an Architecture becomes symbolic that it can become 'green' because being capable of being made out of any material, in any way. Nothing is less 'green' than a lifespace that must be made of 'natural materials'. Such materials must be quarried directly from a natural source that must, of the nature of such 'pure sources' always not only be less than renewable but, more critically, be incapable of being recycled. Only Nature can grow more wood, whereas patterned and coloured concrete can be synthesised out of many kinds of material, most of them less than critical to its final properties.

It is worth noting that Duncan Hall, and the practice of JOA generally, makes a point of being radically modern while remaining within the pragmatic envelope of forms that are normative to building. Not for us the artfully leaning-over wall and the go-fast Presley quiff-roof so beloved of contemporary fashion. We cleave to the 'normal' not out of some misguided imprisonment within an idea of a sacred, inviolable, 'tradition', but merely to invent a Future, that is, if one likes, even 'Futuristic', while also keeping open our lines of communication with the origins of Architecture, 9,000 years ago, and to all of its intervening states.

The space framed by the tubular portal of our balustrade contains a blue rectangle, which refers to the Classical vallum, in its aspect of watery ditch, as the green squares enclosed inside it signify the orthogonal, isolae of the civic 'religio' that the balus - palisade encircled and protected for the period of the night. The spandrel of the balustrade is a proscenium-frame which re-presents to us the primordial island on its 'ground' of watery chaos. It re-narrates its emergence from the 'sea'. This 'stretching of time' within the very stuff of the human lifespace, between the two extremes of absolute past and novel future, is essential in order to open a door into the 'space of time'. This offers the iconic literate a view into a landscape that is a far more expansive, and conceptually liberating, prospect than the literal eye-view from any plateglass window, however enlarged by height or careful 'romantic' landscaping.

The edges of each floor slab are painted Jade green, to represent the "New Earth", as conceived by Le Corbusier's Unite's d'habitations. This 'earth' is both born out of, like the primordial island of Egypt, or Aphrodite herself, and borne along by, the blue "kyma" wave that swells up from below. This figure, of the 'new earth' being born from the chaos of the ocean, is inscribed on the edges of Renaissance floor slabs by the Guilloche moulding, also called the Meander, after the river on the limits of the Classical world, in Central Asia. Every time a householder washes his balcony in the Roman morning, as the sun reaches down into the dark canyons of the Campo Marzo, and the water spills over the edge, the idea of the birth of the new earth is rehearsed, and each sky-borne floor becomes for a moment as solid as terra firma itself. How else can one live in the air and yet keep one's feet on the ground except by such conceits and rituals?

The Balustrades on the exterior walls of Duncan Hall tell a related story. Here the railing is a great wave of through-blue cobalt concrete. The infill, or spandrel is a yellow lattice, set on the diagonal, and each baluster is a red cone topped with a small black cylinder. This is the story of the 'entablature' in its aspect as the 'Raft of the Founders'. The yellow lattice is the raft of reeds, the blue wave the Ocean of Chaos and Disorder on which it was carried, aimlessly, and by chance, to the locus of the 'Founding Event', and the red cone the hearth fire of the Founders, the 'ash-cone of Hestia' carried by the Raft, from which the Founders would kindle the civic hearth and plant the cargo-fire of the Mother City into the New Foundation.

Both internal and external balustrades edge what may be termed, correctly, descendants of the traditional 'balcony of appearances'. One may think that such things are no longer real or valid. Who would come out and stand in the morning, greeting the new day and showing (to anyone who was concerned) that they had survived the night and remained alive. Yet, even within all the 'progress' to which we have become accustomed, and even in spite of it, for the very digital media in which we communicate are open to fabrications and fakery of all kinds (who can state, any more, that a photograph, in the era of 'Photoshop', records a 'real' event?), there remains a need, especially in moments of the radical institutional changes of today, for real people to show themselves to each other on the stage of Hannah Arendt's 'Space of Appearances', and, however informally, appear to those outside the privacy of the 'Institution'.

Each balustrade is a door, or lower half of a 'stable' door, albeit a blocked and barred one, at which one may stand and be seen. So, in a 'traditionally'-designed building, is each window embrasure with its ornamental framing, a similar proscenium to the 'personal appearance'. Nothing prohibits such manifestations, even at 600 feet above pavement level. I have a photograph of a 1930's skyscraper in New York in which a girl can be seen combing her hair in the sunlight at an open sash window 180 Metres up in the air. Could anything be more wonderful? Could there be a more dramatic condemnation of the barbarously inhuman practice of making sealed-up buildings incapable of being opened for human display upon their floors and surfaces? People are reduced to the status of prize guppies banging against the walls of fishtanks. Better to improve the flexibility of airconditioning and let the odd market speculator take his preferred 'way out', than condemn us all to being sealed into these towering tombs of transparency.





















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* JOA can be reached by E-Mail at anthony@johnoutram.com , by telephone on +44 (0)207 262 4862 or by fax on +44 (0)207 706 3804. We also have an ISDN number : +44 (0)207 262 6294.