Anxious Ornament: Ornament in Contemporary Architecture
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There is a fundamental conflict between the urge to ornament and the contemporary time. The phenomenon of contemporary ornament in the timeframe of early 1990s to present day is explored in the context of the modernist rejection of conventional ornament. Three properties of contemporary ornament differentiate it from traditional ornament. Wallpaper refers to ornament that is scaled freely over the building, often repeated, without consideration of building limits. Fusion describes ornament that is surface-thin, subtractive rather than additive. Interface outlines a mechanism inserted in the line of communication to distance ornament from its author. Ornament is no longer designed or sculpted as much as generated or presented through a distancing lens. These strategies make contemporary ornament resistant to traditional interpretation; meaning is reduced through simple references and lack of recognizable motif. Although ornament has been an integral part of architectural expression through time, and its modernist rejection is a moment in the grand timeframe of ornament in architecture, modernist thought influences the contemporary conception of ornament. The three strategies – wallpaper, fusion, and interface – are recognized as tools that contemporary ornament uses to censor itself, reducing opportunities for expression. Contemporary ornament is an anxious type of ornament; it is aware of its modernist ban and, through the outlined strategies, submits to modernist values. The thesis builds this narrative through varied examples of contemporary ornamented buildings and various contemporary writing on the subject, synthesizing the three strategies into methodology for personal explorations in ornament.
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Milda Miskinyte (2019). Anxious Ornament: Ornament in Contemporary Architecture. UWSpace. http://hdl.handle.net/10012/14385