The Function of Ornament

The seminar will undertake a survey of modern ornament as this has been explored through building envelopes by various architects, in order to construct a discipline for understanding the function of ornament, dismantling the idea that ornaments are applied to buildings as discrete or non-essential entities. The research will be directed towards understanding an expanded materiality in architecture that includes not only wood, steel an glass but also time, organization, economy, schedules, functions and desires which can be combined together to produce new material aggregates. These new material aggregates are necessary for architecture to incorporate the extended set of functions required of contemporary building envelopes. Ornament is the surface expression or appearance of these material aggregates. Whether these expressions exploit the thinness of the skin or the depth of a building, they fundamentally exploit matter to produce images and effects. The difference between decor and ornament, then, is that the first produces an image or expression known a priori, whereas the second is generated through material organization. The seminar aims to produce a graphic guide to ornaments produced through building envelopes since the early part of the 20th century, selected for their importance as prototypes. In the same spirit as \”Made in Tokyo\” (Atelier Bow-Wow) or \”Modern Housing Prototypes\” (Roger Sherwood), the seminar will attempt to trace experiments in envelope design through a systematic graphic method, looking for surface-level expressions that are the resultant of resonances between function and image. Whereas \”Made in Tokyo\” identifies \'eccentric\' typologies whose operativity is local to certain sites in Tokyo, our guide will aim to gather ornament prototypes that are able to shift to other environments. The initial classification of envelope types will be focused on properties of function (ornament as necessary versus ornament as contingent), properties of position (ornament as deep versus ornament as superficial), and properties of form (ornament generating its form from extrinsic or intrinsic factors).Work for the seminar will have three components: the reading and discussion of theoretical texts on ornament to build up a position relative to the history we will be examining; the critical identification of envelope prototypes and development of a classification system for organizing them according to our theoretical position on ornament; and the production of analytical drawings and documentation for each prototype.Class Schedule:Tuesday, January 31, 1pm (room 517) Introductory meeting.Friday, February 17, 10-1 (Portico 121)Thursday, March 2, 10-1 (Portico 121)Thursday, March 16, 10-1 (Portico 121)Tuesday, April 4, 10-1 (Portico 121)Friday, April 28, 10-1 (Portico 121)Thursday, May 11, 10-1 (final review week) (location TBD)