Monday, May 3 2021
In contemporary practice, architectural ornament is considered somewhere between passé and a “criminal” offense. Many architects today do not adorn buildings, at least in the traditional sense, with dimensional or patterned decorations deemed costly and devoid of real purpose. No, architects minimize their designs out of philosophical purity, functional simplicity, or cost effectiveness—much like our modernist predecessors from the mid-20th Century.
Like that persistent hangover, ornament is still commonly viewed with suspicion, but has it disappeared altogether or just reimagined in new ways? The intersection of new technologies and materials have opened the door to building practices unseen in the past. Now is the time to authorize new and spirited uses of ornament that enrich our shared spaces.
Douglas Palladino, AIA — Architect and Adjunct Faculty, The Catholic University of America School of Architecture and Planning
Philip A. Esocoff, FAIA — Washington Architect
Lance Hosey, FAIA LEED Fellow — Chief Impact Officer, HMC Architects
Philip Kennicott — Senior Art and Architecture Critic, The Washington Post
Katie MacDonald — Cofounder of After Architecture and Assistant Professor, University of Virginia
- Describe the basic categories of architectural ornament.
- Compare and contrast examples of architectural ornament on historic and contemporary buildings.
- Explore motives for and against architectural ornament in contemporary practice.
- Identify methods of building practices contributing to new and spirited uses of architectural ornament.
This program is part of PROVOCATIONS, a Debate on Design series organized by the Washington Architectural Foundation. PROVOCATIONS is generously funded in part by the National Trust for Historic Preservation.