Violletleduc

Viollet-le-Duc also regarded ornament as a necessary aspect of architecture, but not as something that could be merely applied to a completed structure. Rather, he believed, decoration ought to be integrated with the structure itself, to the extent that it could not be removed without damaging the building in the process. He admired the architectural sculpture of the ancient Egyptians and Greeks to the extent that it was integral with structural components; even more that of the Gothic cathedrals because it made sculpture part of the structure itself. For modern usage, on the other hand, the most important considerations are that embellishment should be subordinate to the design scheme of the building as a whole, that ornament should be concentrated at structurally significant locations, and that its formulation should be appropriate to the material employed. He was, for instance, acutely aware that ornament for new materials such as iron was problematic because there was no earlier tradition to draw upon as a model. Cognizant of color as an aspect of historical decoration, he left unstated any notions he may have entertained concerning its application to modern buildings.

A telling example of how he thought ornament might be used in a modern building is spelled out in Histoire d'une maison. He proposed to set the square joists spanning a room on the diagonal, rather than straight, and that they should be held in place by V-shaped cuts in the bearers (fig. 12-2). This disposition, he maintained, would increase their resistance to deflection from the weight of the floor above them and at the same time introduce an interesting pattern and texture into the ceiling. He suggested that these joists might be painted with a stylized design, both to introduce color and to add richness of pattern to these structural members. Still another example was the iron girder made of many small parts, described in the Entretiens (fig. 10-5). An abstracted foliate design was introduced into the assemblage of parts composing the girder and another was cast in the capital of the supporting column.

Viollet-le-Duc's position was taken up by the entire generation of Art Nouveau architects of the 1890s. Among them, Louis Sullivan in the United States ideally realized

Figure 12-2

Decorative structural detail: dining room ceiling, by Viollet-le-Duc (How to Build a House).

Figure 12-2

Decorative structural detail: dining room ceiling, by Viollet-le-Duc (How to Build a House).

the Frenchman's aspirations, most notably in the terracotta ornaments of his early skyscrapers in St. Louis and Buffalo (fig. 12-3). Manufactured as small rectangular units, in which intricately detailed motifs were stamped out by metal dies before the process of firing, they combined the qualities of fine workmanship with the virtues of machine production. The assistant who may have executed some of the ornamental designs, Frank Lloyd Wright, continued the tradition and maintained it in his own work, even in the face of a strongly differing philosophy advanced by European modernists.

Figure 12-3

Richly decorative terra-cotta detail: Wainwright building, St. Louis, by Adler and Sullivan (FH).

Figure 12-3

Richly decorative terra-cotta detail: Wainwright building, St. Louis, by Adler and Sullivan (FH).

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