THE UNEVEN FLOOR
A lively, uneven floor in the public area means a regaining of the human dignity which man is deprived of by the levelling tendencies of urbanism. A crucial experience has been taken away from him.
Austria was always a pioneer of new ideas in residential building. Why should only the rich and the privileged be the first to benefit from crucial improvements in the comfort of living?
Why should these achievements only be adopted from abroad at a later date?
People not only have eyes,
to enjoy the beauty they see,
and ears to hear melodies,
and noses to smell nice scents.
People also have a sense of touch in their hands and feet.
If modern man is forced to walk on asphalt, concrete FLAT surfaces, the way they are thoughtlessly conceived with the ruler in the designer offices, alienated from his natural relationship to the earth which goes back to the dawn of time, from contact with the earth, a crucial part of man is blunted, with catastrophic consequences for his psyche, his emotional balance, his well-being and health.
Man forgets how to experience things and becomes emotionally ill.
Thus, the flat floor becomes a true danger for man.
Precisely in public-sector residential construction, the regaining of human dignity in sterile surroundings, particularly in the customarily barren, smooth, anonymous corridors, must be the supreme principle.
It goes without saying that the slopes of the long-waved uneven surfaces must not endanger safety, not exceeding a gradient of 10 %, must be smooth and the tiles not be unevenly laid by more than 1 mm. Level, flat, straight-as-a-ruler should not be confused with smooth: the wavy uneven floor must be smooth, with no overhanging edges.
On every Viennese street irregular gradients of over 10 % of the street’s cross-section at sewer level are customary.
On the Kärntner Strasse in downtown Vienna, for example, there are differences in street level of about 15 to 20 cm and many unevenly laid granite plates by up to 10 mm. Thousands of passers-by walk over this uneven surface every day without any accidents occurring.
In the Olympic Park in Munich and the El-Dorado in the South Shopping City in Vienna, even larger INTENTIONAL uneven surfaces are walked over with pleasure without the slightest impairment.
For a rational, purposive tile-paving procedure it is crucial that the concrete underfloor is already applied unevenly. The paver then only needs to lay the tiles in the adhesive paste and compensate for overhanging edges.
But the straight, flat floor is recognised to be a true DANGER to man.
The completely level, flat floor “trains” man to become disabled.
The person with impaired vision, who has already lost his eyesight, should not be deprived of his feet’s sense of touch, as well. For he is familiar with the unevenness of the floor and can thus get around better.
Thus, out of a falsely construed principle of safety we are trying to impose an abnormal, sterile, artificial environment for the handicapped on all citizens in accordance with their theoretical ideas. But the disabled person also wants to live in a natural environment!
For this reason, the uneven floor will have to be raised to the status of a norm in a few years, anyway, for health, psychotherapeutic, orthopedic, urbanistic and social reasons.
For the uneven floor is a component of humane living conditions.
The corridors in apartment houses were until now simply a rational connection between two points: stairway-apartment door or lift-apartment door etc.
People saw to it that they got through this inhospitable, oppressing stretch as quickly as possible. But the passageway is not just for passing through. The passageway can and should be a source of humaneness, warmth, beauty, familiarity and “non-regulated irregularities” for all the senses when you walk through it, including the sense of touch in the feet.
In this way the passageway takes on an additional function as a walkway.
You walk in it in an aware state, joyfully. People will enjoy walking to and fro in it, as recreation and to be able to regain their human equilibrium.
The corridor becomes a beautiful path.
The uneven walkway becomes a symphony, it is a melody for the feet. The walkway makes the whole person vibrate.
Architecture should elevate man, not humiliate him.
I am convinced that this model of the uneven floor will be studied and imitated by experts, scientists and urbanists and architects as a major contribution to humane architecture and add to the fame of Vienna throughout the world.
Written in Vienna, March 12, 1985.
Das Hundertwasser Haus, Vienna: Österreichischer Bundesverlag and Compress Verlag, 1985, p. 244
Hundertwasser Architecture - For a more human architecture in harmony with nature, Cologne: Taschen, 1997, p. 282 and Edition 2007, p. 204
Hundertwasser - KunstHausWien, Cologne: Taschen, 1999, p. 28 (abbreviated version of April 1991)
Hundertwasser. New York: Parkstone Press International, 2008, pp. 162-163