Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Ornament 2. Discussion

Cont. The argument against ornament peaked in 1959 over discussions of the Seagram Building, where Mies van der Rohe installed a series of structurally unnecessary vertical I-beams on the outside of the building, and by 1984, when Philip Johnson produced his AT&T Building in Manhattan with an ornamental pink granite neo-Georgian pediment, the argument was effectively over. In retrospect critics have seen the AT&T Building as the first Postmodernist building. Now, in the 21st after the Postmodernist historicisms, we are looking back at ornament and understanding the integration with structure, the classic paradigm but viewed with a new technological eye. This exploration into “ornamented surfaces” becomes an important quest for contemporary architecture. "A surface is an architectural device whose architectural affects come from the fact that it erases a tectonic history of the discrete elements of the wall, network or landscape. It has a topological capacity." (2) Until the discipline becomes expert, in those not as metaphors, but as real architectural symbols, or a condition of hyper-indexicality, there will not be any new research. The goal of the “critical surfaces” is to create a point of departure from “performance surfaces” to give insight into the role of digital media in architecture that goes beyond its use for presentation and to give a better understanding of the full implications that the incorporation of digital media has for architecture in the broadest sense. In order to avoid falling into the trap of displaying merely the aesthetics associated with digital media, the role of the digital architect should be to address the broader context in which the use of digital media in architecture is situated. It should address specific ways in which experimental architects make use of digital media, what effects this has on architectural production and architectural form, and how this relates to today’s rapid and complex cultural transformations. Performance as a paradigm for architecture moves the attention away from the static object and towards a complex and dynamic plane of relations. It focuses not on architecture as a static art form but on its effects that transform culture: architecture as cultural production. However, even beyond performance, critical surfaces understand architecture, technology and culture not as separate and isolated elements, but as elements interrelated through complex feedback loops, by which they simultaneously affect each other. Ornament in a surface has the capacity not only to perform but to produce a specific effect and emotion but has a direct impact on the one experience it. Footnotes 1. Summerson, John, 1941.Heavenly Mansions 1963, p. 217 2. School of Architecture Website. Yale University