ARH 641 - Schultz
19th June 2013
1.1 Assignment “Decorating Appropriately” Response Essay
Ornament, is generally defined as a decoration used to embellish parts of a building, has also been a controversial debating topic when architecture was introduced to the Modernism period. Throughout the 1920s and 1930s, absence of ornaments became a hallmark of Modern architecture and equated the moral virtues of honesty, simplicity and purity. Le Corbusier, one of the prominent modernist figures, had always supported the ideals of simplistic and honest design. He blamed the deceit in ornamentations as it disguised the flaws in manufacture. However by the mid-1950s, he broke his own rules by producing several highly expressive, sculptural concrete works due to his realization of ornaments could equally serve practical purposes in architecture. In the essay Decorating Appropriately, French architect and theorist Eugene-Emmanuel Viollet-le-Duc unfolded numerous clear ideas about how and in what circumstances ornament should be employed by looking at different approaches to ornamentation in the cultures of Egypt, Greece and the Middle Ages.
The first and perhaps the oldest approach is the natural ornament adopted by the ancient Egyptian culture. Ornaments were inherent in the building’s material and they took the forms from the natural world and decorated with the images of it. The second approach of ornamentation is the result of ancient Greek civilization. Many new forms of ornaments were created at that time and they served to articulate the building visually, organizing it into a series of coordinated visual units that could be comprehended as a whole. Viollet-le-Duc believed this approach is the most rational because its fitness and clearness have unified the entire structure. Aside from the Parthenon mentioned in the essay, the Temple of Hephaestus is another example that belongs to the second approach of ornamentation. Only 18 of 68...
Bibliography: Michael Meredith, From Control to Design Parametric/Algorithmic Architecture (New York: Actar-D,2008).
Eugene-Emmanuel Viollet-le Duc, “Decorating Appropriately”, in M.F. Hearn, ed., The Architectural Theory of Viollet-le-Duc (Massachusetts: The MIT Press, 1990).
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