Ornament and the future

Hi friends,

Been meaning to write this post for a while, but couldn’t really find the right introduction to explain how my thoughts have led to this point.  Let me begin with a cursory history:

Once upon a time, almost all architecture had some form of ornament.  Greek architecture had friezes, the Romans liked to decorate the tops of their columns, the Indians loved to create sculptural scenes in their temples and homes, and this was normal.  It was appreciated, too, I’m  certain.  Anytime you might look up, you’d be rewarded.

And then, something happened in the 30s.  Architecture became about money.  Much like how we love our national parks for their beauty, the architecture scene pulled a Trump and said, “it’s a waste of money, let’s get rid of it.” And ornament, which was once essential to building design, all of a sudden became unimportant.  Nay, it became frowned upon.  Frowned upon in the way that women in the Handmaid’s Tale must all wear red, and wearing clothing that expresses themselves is frowned upon.  This is the new normal.  And so many buildings have lost their individuality.  

Fortunately for interiors, parametric design has got their back.  This way of designing is beautiful because it is a design of relationships, and creates shapes, patterns, and forms that even the designer cannot pre-conceive; it is data, manifested physically.  And this is where we are with ornament today.  Ornament for ornament’s sake makes no sense anymore today; we’ve lost that.  But when ornament is information or data manifested in a beautiful way, it justifies its existence.  The new ornament is a physical representation of information…for interiors.

For exteriors, found ourselves in a place where ornament is still a conundrum.  Those of us who miss it cannot begin to fathom of what relevant exterior mordern ornament is without feeling a little dumb.  Some talented architects have managed to put parametric design outside on exteriors, and this is commendable when done well, but it is not normal. Take a look at the featured image.  So much looks like this today–this is closer to normal.  And most designers will continue to design this unless there is some sort of mini revolution. 

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