Ornaments and Crime

Architecture theory seminar, 2014

With the turn of the digital age the ornament made a comeback in design, Architecture and Art, what was abolished in the beginning of the machine age has returned as today as a surprisingly fresh and direct expression of contemporary culture and spirit.

Aided by the ease and ubiquitous application of the digital in architecture ornament is now directly linked to the progressive use of technology architecture in general. In many aspects the functionalist principles of form have receded and were replaced by surface as the link between culture and architecture. Surface became carrier and enabler of ornament, furthermore supported by the crisis of the architectural profes­sion, which continuously is reducing its amount of control on the build environment and cultural terri­tories. Often only a thin layer of jurisdictive area re­mains for architects to fully express and design with­out constraint. Within this environment the ornament develops as the driving force. Further ornament today reveals and shows the inner tension and dynamics of contemporary culture.

This seminar explores the discourse and the ongo­ing discussion around ornament today. In what form and shape does ornament re-appear in contempo­rary architecture? What are the differences towards the classical application of ornament? What has changed?

The focus of this investigation lies in the search for continuities and affinities. The definition of Modern­ism as a result of discontinuities, breaks and ruptures will be questioned and verified. The provocative arti­cle by Loos, Ornament and Crime, is used to ask this question again: Is ornament still crime? Or what new meaning can ornament now generate?

Instead of focusing on exclusively on modernism other disciplines are of particular interest; Biology, Nature and other sciences have long influ­enced architectural thinking. These areas will be in­vestigated in the search for new models applicable to architectural strategies. Patterns, structures, bio mimicry and performance will be explored as archi­tectural strategies and tested for their relationship to Ornament.