chapter  2
22 Pages

On the Border of the Beautiful

At the outset of the book Pioneers of Modern Design, Nikolaus Pevsner sums up “the basic doctrine of nineteenth-century architectural theory” in what has since become a well-known quote from Ruskin’s “Lectures on Architecture and Painting.” “Ornamentation,” Pevsner quotes Ruskin saying, “is the principal part of architecture” (Pioneers 19). Next, Pevsner goes on to show the comic, and to the proponents of the Modern Movement, the tragic consequence of the application of this “surprising” principle to architectural practice at the end of the last century. This “surprising” statement has since become an emblem for all that the proponents of the Modern Movement believed to be wrong with architectural design around the turn of the century, and much of what they hoped to re-form in it.