Contrary to the message conveyed by the founding fathers of modern architecture, traditional ornament was not meant only for pleasure. It conveyed vital information about the destination of buildings as well as about the rank of their owners. As such, it participated in the expression of social values, hierarchies and order. By bringing previous traditions in ornament under scrutiny, Picon makes us question the political issues at stake in today’s ornamental revival. What does it tell us about present day culture? Why are we presently so fearful of meaning in architecture? Could it be that by steering so vehemently away from symbolism, contemporary architecture is evading any explicit contribution to collective values?
Harvard Graduate School of Design – Ornament: The Politics of Architecture and Subjectivity