Ornament for Functions Sake.


– An exploration of functioning ornament.



Digital Grotesque.

arabesque_wall14Digital Grotesque (2013) Michael Hansmeyer and Benjamin Dillenburger.

Two of the most recent works by Michael Hansmeyer evoke strikingly similar feelings and speak a similar formal language of poetic intricacy. It seems that they are the arabesque and grotesque of our time. Dillenburger says that they wanted a ‘spatial’ result that would be ‘about experience and interaction and immersion.’



Digital Grotesque (2013) Michael Hansmeyer and Benjamin Dillenburger.

“It is not about optimization or functionality , which is what a lot of computational work is about these days. It is really more about exploring form itself, about freeing oneself of the need for function, at least initially.”

It was Hansmeyers last words that I felt were the most compelling and deserving of continued research. It was this that sent my mind pulsing with possible scenarios. Perhaps this intricate geometry could replace the banal formwork for rammed earth walls and aid in water removal to ease erosion. Or they could mimic the walls of termite mounds with their depressions and dents and aid in the breathability of future walls. It was more the gargoyle that I was after rather than the grotesque.


Palau_de_la_Generalitat_-_gargoyle_01Palau de la Generalitat gargoyle (Bernard Gagnon)

A gargoyle is a carved or formed grotesque with a spout designed to convey water from a roof and away from the side of a building, thereby preventing rainwater from running down masonry walls and eroding the mortar between.

Rosslyn Chapel Beehives.

Continuing the search for similar instances where ornament played a role beyond the immediately apparent, aesthetic portrayal. I came across Scotland’s Rosslyn Chapel beehives. It appears the hives were carved into the roof when the chapel was built, with the entrance for the bees formed, appropriately, through the centre of an intricately carved stone flower. The hives were found when builders were dismantling and rebuilding the pinnacles for the first time in centuries.





The “architecture of beehives,” from François Huber’s Nouvelles observations sur les abeilles, courtesy of Cabinet Magazine.


The rather drab spire is made infinitely more agreeable when its function is revealed.  It is gratifying that a lifeless stone sculpture has been performing a role for over 600 years. What is even more inspiring is that an architect considered designing a space in an unconventional scale that could inspire the architecture of an altogether foreign species.

Reconsiderations:  The Masonry Anchor.


VOLUME 1-MASONRY ANCHOR_for blurb (Resized).indd

This is a project by an architect in New York, Samuel Boysen (my old flatmate). He envisioned the standard masonry anchor performing more than just its original task, as a fundamental element with untapped potential. His first explorations led him to the formations of bird nests, specifically those of the English sparrow which inhabit New York City.  The result would be brick facades as rainscreens and bird’s nests.


VOLUME 1-MASONRY ANCHOR_for blurb (Resized).indd Bird’s nest form tests. Samuel Boysen.


VOLUME 1-MASONRY ANCHOR_for blurb (Resized).indd Diagram showing construction detail. Samuel Boysen.

Bat Billboard.

By  Natalie Jeremijenko and Chris Woebken.



Rather than finding ways where architecture can mimic the design of animals, I was interested in how ornament could cater to or be designed for animals. For example, retrofitting uninhabited structures to be used as dwelling spaces for bat populations.

“This interactive billboard facilitates interactions between bats and humans. The habitat uses the structure of a billboard and provides luxury housing for bats, addressing the environmental health emergency faced with New York bats known as White Nosed Syndrome.”

1) Underutilized Structure
2) Opportunity for visibility
3) Create previously unseen living brand advertisement
4) Easily adapted with habitat housing
5) Interfaces for understanding eg. tweeting



Common_Place: Food dispensers. 


COOK Common_Place: House of the Cooks.

In this visualization of the ‘House of the Cooks’, a project of my own, there are threaded glass tubes that descend through the ceiling from the room above where the food is prepared. The tubes were designed to funnel the plates of food to the guests beneath. With the premeditated knowledge that these functional elements may one day fall from use to hang as ornaments in a foreign space.


Haus-Rucker-Co, Grüne Lunge (Green Lung).

Haus_Rucker_Co [Image: Haus-Rucker-Co, Grüne Lunge (Green Lung), Kunsthalle Hamburg (1973); photo by Haus-Rucker Co, courtesy of the Archive Zamp Kelp; via Walker art center].

“In essence, Green Lung was an architectural breathing apparatus; it pumped artificially conditioned indoor air through a series of inflatable ducts to a grape-like cluster of transparent plastic helmets suspended to a pole in the square outside. Visitors—that is, any public passer-by who wanted to pop his or her head into a helmet—could thus breathe the rarefied atmosphere of an art museum, inhaling airs that only minutes earlier had been gently rolling over the painted surfaces of Romantic landscape scenes and delicate statuary.”



Photo: China Stringer Network


Although the ‘green lung’ project was meant as an art installation, it certainly has some significance in today’s world no matter how uncomfortable that may be to realise. One can quite easily imagine ornamental tentacles dangling from buildings. Pumping conditioned air to passers by.

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