Monday, October 10, 2011


This is a brief outline of some thoughts that are going to be explored throughout my research about ornamentation through digital technologies:

Ornamentation has evolved with great speed over the past one hundred and fifty years. In an attempt to remove taste and subjective opinions from the criticism of design, guidelines were created to make design more of a science. The rise of the middle class during the 1850’s and their influence on the consumer market of art changed the dynamic between designers and the products produced. Designers and the middle class did not agree on what was considered good taste. In turn, designers revolted against the middle class and established guidelines that could not be judged based on subjective opinions. With these new guidelines, ornamentation was slowly removed from the designers vocabulary and a new ornamentation evolved. Ornamentation was no longer a representation of natural forms, but became expressed through texture and the accentuation of the structure.

Over the course of the next nine months, ornamentation will be explored through digital technologies. The goal of the work is to frame it in a culturally significant way. The objective will not be to recreate the lavish ornament of the past, but to create ornament in a way that will be pleasing to the current culture. Just as Pugin did in the 1800’s, a new set of principles will be written for ornamentation, specific to the current time period.
How will ornament be created in a way that will not be rejected by modernist ideas which have guided design for the last one hundred and fifty years? One possibility for study will be the embellishment of texture. Texture has been one way for modernists to express ornament. The choice of material based on color, pattern of grain, and shadow is a way that architectural forms have included ornament without calling it ornament.
Historically, ornament was created based on religion or heritage. In the United States, the extreme diversity does not allow for ornament to be based on these types of cultural backgrounds. What forms will be considered culturally significant? What does it mean to be culturally significant and how do you know if you have accomplished a a culturally significant design?
I have begun to classify ornament into one of two categories: solely aesthetic or performative. If ornament is integrated with its structure, it potentially will be more difficult to remove. If it can be proved that it functions in a beneficial  way, it becomes more valuable to the design. Aesthetics also serve a function; to be pleasing to the eye and bring visual delight to the design. Aesthetics are subjective, and this is what the modernists were attempting to remove from design. It brings the question of what is beauty and how can that be analyzed, if at all. Aesthetics are a priority in ornament, but a strong integration to its function is expected.

General Questions:
Is the style of architecture changing more quickly now due to technology? Does architecture change at a more similar rate to fashion (clothing) than it used to? Architecture used to take many decades to build, now only a few years, if that. The turnover rate is much higher. Does this make architecture disposable? Society seems to move much faster than architecture. Are digital technologies the way to keep a similar pace to society? It allows fast construction, fast detail, faster assembly, especially when prefabricated.

This new set of ornamental design principles will be translated into built form. Various forms will be explored, such as furniture pieces, doors, wall systems and installations. Material selections will be chosen based on the design intent in correlation to the method of fabrication.

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