Patterns of Ornament | May 2012
Presented at Eventually Everything conference, May 2012
“Decoration… is suited to simple races, peasants and savages,” argued Le Corbusier in his 1923 publication, Vers Une Architecture. He continued, “Harmony and proportion incite the intellectual faculties and arrest the man of culture.” Le Corbusier was not the first to believe that ornament hindered societal development. With his statement, Le Corbusier announced his allegiance with earlier advocates of strict functionalism like Adolf Loos, author of “Ornament in Crime” from 1908, who had aggressively argued against the dominance of the popular decorative styles of Art Nouveau and the Vienna Secession.
While Modernist arguments against ornament emphasized that decoration had previously been used as a distraction from the inevitable flaws of handcraftsmanship, today’s technological innovations have allowed architects to turn this functionalist argument back on itself. Patterns Of Ornament, presented at the Eventually Everything Design Criticism conference in May 2012 in New York, explores examples of contemporary experimentation with material and structure, and the creation of elaborate forms that are ornate, yet retain their essential function. Made possible by new design and fabrication techniques, is the use of ornament in today’s interior architecture a testament to today’s technological progress?