Diploma 13 - The Principles of New Ornament
Oliver Domeisen

The Principles of New Ornament

In its mission to turn architects into competent ornamentalists Diploma 13 focused this year on the convergence of art, ornament and architecture. The students developed ornamented London habitats for the world’s foremost art collectors and their trophies. The ultimate goal of a ‘Gesamtkunstwerk’ replaced the ideal of the ‘White Cube’, embracing the complex and often ambivalent relationship between artwork, frame and wall. The decorative function of art and ornament within the domestic realm was set against the museal function of the gallery and the Loosian dichotomy of ornate private interior versus plain public exterior was also questioned. Visits to precedents such as the Wallace Collection and Chatsworth House, a course in the history and theory of ornament, a workshop at the Werner Oechslin Foundation and excursions to the Alhambra, as well as Spanish churrigueresque and plateresque masterpieces, all prepared the students for their own forays into the world of architectural ornament. 

The resulting projects are responses to a variety of historical, site-, art- as well as client-related contexts. They include proposals for country houses neighbouring Kenwood House on Hampstead Heath. Some embraced the Arcadian ideals of the picturesque landscape, and Adam’s Neoclassicism, by erecting a metamorphic folly for the Duke of Sutherland (Kassym) or by providing Eli & Edythe Broad with a forest of columns based on the common nettle (Edith). Another opted for encasing François Pinault in a kaleidoscopic treasure chest (Kai). Several projects for a townhouse are sited next to Sir John Soane’s Museum. In response to the famous neighbour one student created its double as a televisual projection of light and colour (Kyung Tae), and another inverted it to become an archaeology of industrially produced fragments (Anton), both for client Francesca von Habsburg. 

A third produced an array of charred, scarred and tattooed crates for collector Adam Lindemann (Oscar), while a fourth invented ‘pornament’ for the Saatchi-Lawson household (Geoffrey). Proposals for a penthouse atop One Hyde Park included a battery of neo-gothic pinnacles (Mu), concentric shells (Sarah) and painterly curtain-walls (Shen Fei); as well as a Sullivanesque supercar of a hideaway for Guy Wildenstein (David). Thus: Ornament = Art = Architecture.