Ghoche, "Ornament and Expressive Lines" (2017).pdf
Although it may seem paradoxical today, experimentation in ornament was widely believed in the nineteenth century to be the readiest means of arriving at a new architecture. In contrast to its condemnation by the early twentieth-century avant-garde, ornament occupied a distinct place in the imaginary of nineteenthcentury architects, who often saw it as the primary means by which buildings expressed their purpose and social relevance to a burgeoning public sphere. Indeed, ornament was frequently
... ment was frequently regarded as a form of communication, which in contrast to other artistic forms, was believed to deliver its message with extreme concision and in a manner that seemed to rival the expediency of the written word. Not surprisingly, architects and decorative artists in England and Continental Europe often referred to the "vocabulary" and the "grammar" of ornament, and spoke of its "lexicon" and "syntax," seeing in the repetitive strokes and meandering curls that give ornament shape, a visual parallel to glyphic script. For some, however, the analogy to language was more fundamental. The study of ornament afforded a view into deeply held human impulses and access to penetrating internal realities. Ornament, like writing, was essential to humanity and as intrinsic as its dream-life which it was often seen to reproduce. Moreover, ornament provided a historical glimpse into the motivations of the most ancient of civilizations and was seen to belong to a family of artifacts (that included coinage, funerary urns, and tombstones) whose form and iconography demanded new scrutiny and new methods of interpretation. Ornament was thus described as "symbolic" for its ability to condense and intensify real-life form into an abstract set of figures and signs, and for its capacity to produce a new lens through which to see the world. These qualities were particularly important in the new culture of the metropolis, where ornament demonstrated its continued relevance in environments permeated by prosaic values and quick-paced exchange. The Companions to the History of Architecture, Volume III, Nineteenth-Century Architecture. Edited by Martin Bressani and Christina Contandriopoulos.