Proceedings of the XXIII World Congress of Philosophy

Volume 1, 2018

Aesthetics and Philosophies of Art

Helen Tatla
Pages 345-352

The Function of Ornament
A Philosophical Discussion in Relation to Contemporary Architecture

Within modernist architecture technology supported by abstract aesthetic principles held sway over culture and history. In this milieu, ornament was deprived of any claim to truth and morality. Functionalism, implying the subordination of form to usefulness, became the sworn enemy of ornament. As such, it haunted architecture throughout the 20th century. In contemporary pioneering architecture, ornament seems to regain the lost ground, not as something externally added to architectural form, but as an essential quality which permeates the work from its structure to the minimum detail. In fact, ornament has become the materialization of the concept of function. Function is still operating within rationalism by being closely related to mathematical relations and technology. However, detached from usefulness, it is anchored in sensation and materiality and identified with the action of forces which possess things located in their essence. This essay attempts to investigate the meaning of the term ornament and its relation to function in contemporary pio­neering architecture, compared to modernist architecture. Adorno’s critique of the modernist opposition between functionalism and ornament as well as the suggestion for a ‘logic of sensation’ grounded on the materiality of a work by Gilles Deleuze will be vital to our research.