Ornament Theory and Design

Project Description

The project of ornament on the Yale Center for the British Arts reacts to the pervasive use of ornamental wrappers in the contemporary practice of architecture. These articulate surfaces, which most of the time cover the entire building, are utilized to provoke an immediate visceral effect through the juxtaposition of repetitive panels. As a result, the structural and material identity of the building disappears behind this extra “decorative” layer.This ubiquitous modus operandi is frequently perceived as a reinterpretation of Gottfried Semper’s theory of ornament due to its literal or metaphorical use of fabric. However, in his drawing of the primitive hut for the World Exhibition of 1851, Semper shows explicitly the wooden structure that holds the woven mat. This duality and exchange is fundamental in order to acknowledge the tectonic and geometrical qualities of the building.

As a result I chose to implement an ornament on the North facade of the Yale Center for the British Arts. The abstraction of the geometry of the Bradford pear trees dialogues with the existing concrete structure while holding the ornamental fabric veils, which have replaced the steel panels. In reference to Louis Kahn’s fascination for ruins, the building is projected in phase of entropic decay, in a far future where foliage and Nature have taken over architecture.