Isabelle Frank – Is the Term Ornament Still Relevant Today?



Lecture date: 2008-11-13

Isabelle Frank questions the relevance of the term ornament for contemporary practice. Initially a subdivision of classical rhetoric, ornament was adopted by Renaissance theorists as a way to describe attributes of art and architecture. Ornament thrived for several centuries until its very success led to its banishment from modernist architectural theory and practice. It has survived, even if not named or recognised in its current forms, while our understanding of it has not progressed beyond the modernist, polarized debates.
Frank argues that it is time to liberate architectural theory from an aesthetic term that hampers our ability to analyse and understand current architectural practice.

Isabelle Frank is Associate Dean for Academic Affairs at The New School in New York. Previously she has been at the Bard Graduate Center for Studies in the Decorative Arts, at the American Council of Learned Societies, and the Northwestern University. She is the author of articles on Italian Renaissance art and theory of decorative arts and has published The Theory of Decorative Arts: An Anthology of European and American Writings 17501940 (Yale, 2000) and Die Rhetorik des Ornaments (Fink Verlag, 2001). ‘Ornament’ Lecture Series co-ordinated by Oliver Domeisen.

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