chapter  2
31 Pages

ORNAMENT and AUSTERITY

Prior to the Second Industrial Revolution of the late 19th and early 20th centuries,

ornamentation was central to architecture. The study of architecture was the study of

ornament. Debates regarding ornament centered on the manner in which ornament

was to be deployed. In 1828, for example, German architect Heinrich Hübsch saw style

as the “essence” of art and architecture and posed the question, “In what style should we

build?”1 While his contemporaries argued the virtues or shortcomings of various styles-

Moorish vs. Romanesque, Greek Corinthian vs. Roman Corinthian-Hübsch sought a new

style. He believed that each country or region might develop its own contemporary style,

rather than mimic the styles of the past. Vernacular ornament would be derived from: (1)

“usual” building materials, e.g. stone and wood, (2) the material and construction methods

at the time, (3) responses to regional climate, and (4) human social and environmental

needs. The debate over what style was most appropriate grew more impatient as the 19th

century came to a close and took a radical turn at the dawn of the 20th century.