Ornament is dangerous : a wildfire hazard center for Los Angeles
Author(s)Trimble, Matthew Alexander
Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Dept. of Architecture.
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There is no such thing as an unadorned building. While the the role and relevance of ornament in architecture has been criticized for centuries, its position has been, for the most part, supported as essential to architecture. In his seminal work On the Art of Building in Ten Books, Alberti wrote, "ornament may be defined as a form of auxiliary light and complement to beauty... ornament, rather than being inherent, has the character of something attached or additional." This understanding of ornament stems from the notion that within a work of art or architecture, that which is essential (the work) may be distinguished from that which is supplementary (the ornament).(cont) Similarly, for Immanuel Kant ornament is "only an adjunct, and not an intrinsic constituent..." Kant suggests that the work exists on the level of the primary, with respect to that of the secondariness of its ornamentation. Therefore ornament, in this primitive form, is something tacked on to that which is already complete in itself. Regardless of the specific nature of its use, or the extent of its distinguishability from structure, ornament is still typically thought of as an adjunct to architecture. It is required to conform to predetermined logics of space, material, surface, and structure, with room to maneuver only insofar as those arguments remain essentially intact. Instead, could ornament vis-a-vis architecture be conceived as genetic rather than epidermic? Could the eloquence of ornament become an impetus for making architecture, assuming the responsibilities of both master and slave. Henri Focillon begins to grapple with this idea in The Life of Forms in Art. He proposes that "Ornament shapes, straightens and stabilizes the bare arid field on which it is inscribed. Not only does it exist in and of itself, but it also shapes its own environment -- to which it imparts form." This thesis speculates that the role of ornament is greatly limited when thought of strictly as an appliqué, and will therefore begin by attempting to posit ornament as a primary architectural consideration rather than exclusively supplementary. In a manner consistent with the critique of ornament as strictly supplementary, the notion that ornament must be built up from a predetermined, constructive rule set will also be challenged. Rather than working toward an idea of ornament fixed by the work to which it is applied, processes of destruction will be developed as tools to establish an emergent ornamentation. Instead of subscribing to an additive logic, ornament will emerge from a destructive, transformative logic. The Southern California Wildfire Hazard Center (WHC) is an existing organization based at the University of California in Santa Barbara.(cont) The WHC employs current and near-term capabilities of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration's Earth Science Enterprise (NASA ESE), and is a joint endeavor of a consortium of universities, research organizations, and the Los Angeles County Fire Department. The key goal of the WHC is to assist in the management of fire hazards at the urban-wildlands interface. It pursues this goal by developing new data sources, analysis techniques, database management tools, and fire hazard prediction tools. The thesis project, an LA Wildfire Hazard Center, will serve as a local subsidiary to the Southern California Wildfire Hazard Center, hosting both research and educational facilities focusing on Los Angeles County. "Ornament is but the guiled shore to a most dangerous sea." - Shakespeare, The Merchant of Venice
Thesis (M. Arch.)--Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Dept. of Architecture, 2008.This electronic version was submitted by the student author. The certified thesis is available in the Institute Archives and Special Collections.Page 144 blank.Includes bibliographical references (p. 138-143).
DepartmentMassachusetts Institute of Technology. Department of Architecture
Massachusetts Institute of Technology