Ornament in Architecture

The comment by Oliver Domeisen on my blog about the Charnley House has made me realise the extent to which the role and function of ornament is a live topic in Schools of Architecture.   Domeisen himself has taught the history of ornament at the AA and now at the Bartlett, based on Owen Jones’s The Grammar of Ornament (1856) and Louis Sullivan’s A System of Architectural Ornament (1924), as well as doing an exhibition ‘Re-sampling Ornament’ at the Swiss Architecture Museum in Basel and then at the Arkitekturmuseet in Stockholm.   Of course, I was aware that ornament was creeping back into architecture, as in Caruso St. John’s new façade to the Bethnal Green Museum of Childhood and the façade of their Nottingham Art Gallery and in the work of Farshid Moussavi.   But I wasn’t aware that the debate goes back to whether or not one interprets the Charnley House as an example of Louis Sullivan’s approach to ornament or as a proto-modernist composition.

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