FLOORING COLOURS through AGES

Post 698 –by Gautam Shah

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Stone-Paved Street at Dougga

For built environment Flooring Colour, is the most important element of experience. It primarily determines the level of brightness in a room, but has many other subtle affectations.

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The experience of colour, relates to both, Visual and Tactile aspects. The visual component consists of colour, texture and patterns. The tactile component has two relates, the actual feel and the visual recognition.

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The Colours of the Floorings emerge from> the extent, gradient and contours (steps, edges, drops, slopes) of the flooring, angle and tinge (stained or grisaille glass) of illumination and texture (gloss-dull), the expanse and colour of the joints.

Colour and black-and-white

The Patterns in the Floorings derive from> set motifs (images, patterns), recognizable geometry, grain-veins in the floor materials and the composition of joints.

Dark coloured floors cut off bottom-up reflection of radiation, and so are ideal in open-to-sky spaces like Chowks, on window sills, and spaces in front of doors, verandahs. Dark floors, however absorb more radiant heat due to the low reflectivity and get very warm. Dark floors are not preferred in walkways, balconies or on terraces (in tropical climates). A dark floor in water pool heightens the feeling of depth, but can increase the rate of water evaporation due to greater absorption of heat radiation. Very dark and shiny floors show off dust and require frequent cleaning. Dark coloured sills increase the radiant heat inside the rooms. Dark sills in cellars (low illumination areas) reduce the level of reflected component of natural light.

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Light-coloured floors substantially reduce the heat absorption, provided these are maintained clean. Light-coloured floors provide lightness and enhance the space size. White floors have a natural association with aseptic conditions, so are preferred in food preparation zones, health facilities and in sanctimonious areas (temples).

Akshardham Temple New Delhi India

Coloured floors are used for livening up monotonous or drab spaces (very large halls like departmental stores, plazas, courtyards). Coloured floors are used in industrial plants, schools, hospitals etc. to indicate routes and movement areas for goods, vehicles and people.

Salle des Hôtes - Mont St Michel

Historically Flooring colour has been monochrome where good building stones were available. Earliest colouring elements were the mosaics of marble, ceramic and glass. Flooring colours have been exploited in sparsely occupied sections of the building such as corridors, passages, plazas, etc.

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West Asiatic architecture had monochrome flooring of building stone and in some cases of terracotta units. Greeks used only white marbles, but used mosaics to create images on the floors.

Romans began to use colourful marbles as inlay pieces to create borders and central patterns. Thermaes (bathhouses) were perhaps the most garish of all places in terms of flooring colour schemes.

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Byzantine period saw reuse of Roman marble debris. Cut pieces of coloured marbles of Roman columns were used for flooring bands. Contrast and pattern definition was their only intention, rather than a balanced colour scheme.

In Gothic architecture, the colour through the stained glass window was so strong that flooring colour was almost subordinated. The quality of laying and finishing were very refined. Granites were used sparingly, only as part of patterns. Wherever high colour effect was, required floors were covered with carpets, rugs and floor spreads.

English mediaeval period saw the use alternatively placed light and dark shades (black-white) of flooring materials to form diagonal checker board flooring.

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Post Gothic period windows’ glass became light hued, interiors were much more illuminated, interior elements were painted and often gilded. These required a highly polished (glossy- dazzling surface) and a balanced colour scheme.

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Renaissance saw painters and sculptors becoming builders and architects, who were very adapt in use of colour. Marbles were selected in terms of the interior colour scheme. Veins or grain patterns of Marbles and other stones were exploited by selection of the cut section, and their orientation to accentuate the patterns.

Versailles Flooring of Mixed stone colours but well planned pattern

French Versailles had marble and stone floors, but required on one hand frequent scrubbing and polishing and replacement due to the moisture from under-floors. Wood was preferred as a floor finish. Wood was a local flooring material for many years. 15th C onward Europe had supplies of exotic woods of Asiatic origin, later from African and American locations (North and Latin). Rare woods, were appreciated for their wonderful colours, grains and hardness but used conservatively. The woods were veneered thin sections and backed with boards of low-cost local woods, to form a surfacing material.

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