On the way to the library today I stopped in the bathroom in O’Brien, one of the not-so-recently renovated engineering buildings. The style reminded me of the men’s room in 14N at MIT. Although much of the floor had been pasted over with a faux-tile laminate, there was still a patch of the old square-tile and grout floor that must have come with the original design. The original monochrome (blue in this case) pattern of speckled tile looked random to me because of the small patch, whereas the laminate I knew came in huge patterned sheets. I wonder if the workers who put in the original floor got to put in the design themselves, or if the patter was pre-specified by the architect.
Nowadays a tile floor like that would be fabricated off-site and just installed, the deisgn having been specifically chosen by the architect to change the way in which we interact with the bathroom floor or to provide a pleasing visual experience to the lavatory users. I imagine someone putting a Magic Eye stereogram in tiles on the floor so that when you’re sitting on the can and zoning out a 3D roll of toilet paper will pop up in your visual field. The idea is about as egregious as the furniture design for the Stata Center at MIT that Rodin rightfully abhors. I rather like the idea of someone taking the time to put in the floor by hand, tile after tile, and perhaps “misplacing” a blue square here and there to mix it up. It would be like writing a comment on the architecture. I’m sure there are all sorts of theoretical implications, but they’d take too much space to sort out.