Ornament Theory and Design
Ornament is a controversy. Some of the earliest man-made objects contain ornament. Ornament has persisted in some tradition of making things somewhere in the world since. Theorists, writers, architects, artists, philosophers, and great thinkers have written about it. But there is no consensus about ornament. People offer different rules to govern its application, different sources from which it references, different intentions for its deployment, different meanings of its symbols and different levels of acceptable use.
Ornament is a system. Ornament has a syntactical relationship to the object that it ornaments. the places and spaces that ornament occupies are decorative fields. On a smaller scale, ornament has a logic and pattern in the way it which is manifests and grows to cover the decorative field. Finally, there must exist an elemental building block. The generative figure that grows, expands, and transforms to give the variation necessary to occupy, rightly, the decorative field. Ornament is a system that is separate from the structure of the object or building that it ornaments. It is not necessary to the structure, it adheres to it. It sets in motion dynamics, energy flows, and movements of the building.
Ornament is meaning. Ornament conveys a message. The figures, the patterns, the geometric translations, the symbolics, and the material connote references and meaning for one who interacts with the ornament. Ornament can offer entree to the cosmos and how we and our immediate surroundings fit in the extra terrestrial. Ornament gener- ates meaning by using cultural figures, mathematical truths, and material intentionally. Whatever ornament intends to convey-- a sense of depth, a reference of something or someone in the world and cosmos, a story, or a motion of an object-- ornament is a conduit of meaning.
Ornament is an art and a craft. Ornament displays in it the movement of the makers, the process of production, and the uniqueness of material. Ornament is design. Ornament carries with it the values, predilections, and intellec- tual and physical resources of the designer. The curiosities and capabilities of a person are in ornament.
Ornament is decoration. In this seminar, we are careful to distinguish between ornament and decoration. Decoration is a composite whole of complementary (or intentionally unrelated parts). Decoration is phenomenolog- ical, intended to augment an experience or mood. Unlike ornament, the parts need only relate to each other in the way they relate to the whole. On the other hand, ornament requires an underlying structure. It has a syntactic rela- tionship to that which it ornaments as well as all of its other parts. Nevertheless, this difference does not preclude the possibility of ornament from being decoration. Ornament does relate to the whole of its composition. Ornament does augment the perception of those who interact with it. Ornament can connote for the user of an object or the seer of the ornament on it, particular feelings, experiences, histories, and references. Decoration is not ornament, but orna- ment can be decoration.
So ornament is both technical and social, it is art and math. It is theory and application. It is physics but it is adherent. It is history and current and timeless. Ornament is all of these things. Ornament is variable.