The Ornamental Dimension (Spring 2013)
To adorn your house has always been fundamental. A basic need to adorn has been found to exist already in early cultures. In the so-called theory of cladding, Gottfried Semper discerns that the decorated wall originated in hanging fabrics, in it’s function as the first room separating elements. Thus, the course deals with adorning as a fundamental aspect of architecture, from historical times to the present day. The word ornament comes from the Latin verb ornare, meaning ”to embellish”. An ornament can be anything from a solitary glazed tile to a complex plant ornament filling up the wall like a frieze or a pattern that is repeated over the surface. Different perspectives of the ornament will be examined: adornment in different cultures, from different times, ornaments in vernacular tradition, as well as colour and proportions of ornaments. The ornament as a form of transformation will be included, such as the logic of the timber joint surviving as a decorative memory in stone buildings, and also the woven textile patterns transferred to the lime painted facades and the tiled roofs.
The concept and applications of ornaments are especially relevant today when new facades surpass each other in expression via computer and screen printed patterns applied on glass, concrete and tile. The facades are produced from new materials and in new techniques. They often have bright colours and the materials are shiny and reflective. The decorations range from geometric repetitions to images from nature, and often contain computer simulated settings reflected on the facade, thus a form of floating or moveable ornamentation and embellishment.
The ”subversive” ornament is discussed in the course. The ornament has been strongly questioned in architecture, since Adolf Loos’s statement about the banishment of decoration. The ban was soon established as a benchmark of early modernism, against the use of adornments and decorations. Architects were [and still are?] educated to avoid embellishments. Nevertheless, architecture is shaped by deliberately made ornaments, and by unintentional construction meetings that form a kind of decoration. Is there at all a non-ornamented architecture?