Architecture and the Decorative
Editorial by John Fleming
Until the mid-19th century, architecture in the formal European tradition, as opposed to the vernacular, generally followed classical concepts of structure and style. Where structure was function realized, style was made manifest through the non-functional, usually aesthetic and decorative characteristics that distinguished period, culture, and taste. Thus the five classical orders of Greek and Roman antiquity expressed not only function but the creative imagination of a tradition that defined itself largely through the comparative and evolving aesthetics of decoration.
In this issue we consider a few of the ways in which the cultural landscape reflects the inside/outside exchange between the built environment and its surroundings, from the ornamental “folly” of ruins, grottos,
pavilions, or other architectural intrusions into the natural landscape, to the garden cemetery stones and mausoleums of the late-19th and early 20th century in Gothic, Renaissance, and Classical forms. While furniture took to the garden and grounds in stick, twig, and leafy imitation of its new surroundings, entry halls and wallpapers mimicked the bricks and stones of which the structure was made, or drew at times upon the stylized landscapes of Post-Impressionism and after for mural decoration attuned to the zeitgeist of the period.
In an analogous twist, the tools and implements of agricultural activity often express and animate, through their decorative content in human or animal form, the projection of another fundamental dynamic of
our creative impulses.