What is Ornament?

Stefano Graziani, Santa Maria in Portico in Campitelli (1667) Carlo Rainaldi, Rome, 2016

What is Ornament? is a big question, which aims to reconfigure the discussion about ornament, particularly focusing on its current appropriation and interpretation. By trying to find possible answers, the exhibition shows the complexity of a multifaceted narrative which looks into the very essence of ornament. As a matter of fact, it reacts to what seems to be an ongoing fresh, self-confident and joyful return of ornament, intended in its pre-digital sense, beyond its superficial iteration of the early 2000s. Today it seems to be natural to investigate the contemporary form and proportion of a column; to carefully consider the junctions among elements; to question the nature of cladding, as a project rather than as a consequence; to design expressive facades with images and typography; and to dress surfaces with patterns, motifs, textures, materials and colours.

Christ Gantenbein, List Customer Centre Arisdorf, 2011–2015

How can ornament be reconsidered today as an integral part of architecture? What is its impact and its value? Can we still talk about ornament as a quantitative or qualitative option? What is Ornament? is an attempt to look for open answers, organized in six rooms. The exhibition’s architecture, realized by Richard Venlet, is anchored to the content of the exhibition but also to the late postmodern architecture of the venue.

Curators
Ambra Fabi (IT)
Ambra Fabi curator of the exhibition What is Ornament?
Ambra Fabi is an architect and co-founder of Piovenafabi studio, with Giovanni Piovene. Graduated from the University of Mendrisio, she worked at Peter Zumthor’s atelier and freelancer in Milan. She’ has been assistant professor at the Accademia di Architettura di Mendrisio and has been teaching at KU leuven and IED Cagliari. She currently teaches at the École Nationale Supérieure d’Architecture at Marne-la-Vallée in Paris.
Giovanni Piovene (IT)
Giovanni Piovene Curator of the exhibition What is Ornament?
Giovanni Piovene graduated in Architecture in Venice and founded, with Ambra Fabi, the studio Piovenefabi. In 2007, he co-founded the Salottobuono office and in 2010 co-founded San Rocco magazine and commissioned the book and the exhibition “Book of Copies” (2014). He has been teaching assistant at the Accademia di Architettura de Mendrisio and a member of the FORM unit at the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL). He currently teaches at the École Nationale Supérieure d’Architecture in Marne-la-Vallée in Paris.
Exhibition design
Richard Venlet (AU)
The work of Brussels-based artist Richard Venlet combines sculpture, exhibition design and architecture. He has produced numerous projects that form composite and circuitous environments, redirecting the viewer in altered spatial configurations, making him see his surroundings anew and become part of it. As an artist who deliberately intervenes with the exhibition space, Venlet reaches further into architectural production through regular collaborations with artists, architects, curators and art-institutes.
Participants
Atelier 2A+P/A (IT)
Established by Gianfranco Bombaci and Matteo Costanzo, they are an architectural office based in Rome. They work on architectural, urban and landscape design with a particular interest in the nature and condition of the contemporary city. Besides being awarded in several design competitions, they regularly participate in conferences and symposia worldwide. 2A+P/A work is published in a variety of international books and magazines.
Caruso St John Architects (UK)
Working between London and Zurich, with built work throughout Europe, Caruso St John Architects undertakes projects that range in scale from major urban developments, cultural projects and interventions in historic settings. Alongside its cultural work, the practice has assembled a portfolio of projects that intervene in a city’s fabric.
aDVVT (BE)
The studio aDVVT is the new name under which Jan De Vylder, Inge Vinck and Jo Taillieu will further share their mutual appreciation, interest and previous realized work, already long before each one of them sometimes in collaboration with each other, steadily developed and realised a certain variety of projects. The point of departure for aDVVT is to embrace not only design but also the making.
Baukuh (IT)
Baukuh is composed by Paolo Carpi, Silvia Lupi, Vittorio Pizzigoni, Giacomo Summa, Pier Paolo Tamburelli and Andrea Zanderigo. Founded in 2004, they are based in Milan and Genova. Working without a hierarchical structure or a stylistic dogma, they produce architecture out of a rational and explicit design process. Their process is based on a critical understanding of the architecture of the past. 
Martina Bjorn (SE)
Martina Bjorn is a photographer and creative director. Born in Sweden and educated in Paris, where she graduated from the academy of fine arts; architecture in 2008. She is now based in Brussels where she lives. Martina’s body of work, spans from fashion houses, artists, art & design institutions, magazines, and architectural firms on, of varying medium & scale. She seeks to create elegant and understated images uses the abstract and reduced language.
Simon Boudvin (FR)
Boudvin studied Art and Architecture in Paris. Currently teaching Landscape architecture in Edinburgh and Versailles, he doesn't really have a permanent studio and his outdoor practice focuses on urban mutation or landscape change. He usually collects, photographs, describes found objects and shares his harvest in exhibitions and publications.
Matilde Cassani (IT)
Architect that deals with the spatial implications of cultural pluralism in the contemporary Western city. Moving on the border between architecture, installation and event design, her works have been showcased in many cultural institutions, art galleries and were published in several magazines. Cassani was part of Venice Biennale in 2010 and 2012, Chicago Architecture Triennale, Oslo Triennale and Manifesta 12. She’s a teacher at Politecnico di Milano and at the Architectural Association in London.
Christ & Gantenbein (CH)
Founded in 1998 in Basel by Emanuel Christ and Christoph Gantenbein, the studio staff is around 60 architects. Their award-winning large-scale renovations and extensions of the Swiss National Museum in Zurich and the Kunstmuseum Basel cemented their position as builders of cultural space. Interested in the sustainability of form, through their landmark projects they mix ancient and modern in beguiling ways. Their haptic approach challenges materials, using them in a sensitive yet versatile manner.
Fala Atelier (PT)
Fala consider themselves as a naïve architecture practice. Founded in 2013 and based in Porto, it is led by Filipe Magalhães, Ana Luisa Soares and Ahmed Belkhodja. They has taught and lectured at various universities and institutions throughout the world, and its work has been exhibited and published extensively. 
Fernanda Fragateiro (PT)
With a multifaceted work, Fernanda Fragateiro is a portuguese artist that explores space in its various meanings and phenomenological manifestations, whether they are architectural, sculptural, or private and public commissions. Her work varies in scale and supports used, through a minimalist aesthetics of form, color and texture.
Fosbury Architecture (IT)
Fosbury Architecture (FA) is an Italian collective of architectural design and research based in Milan and Rotterdam, founded in 2013. They engage in a wide range of projects, from urban strategies to domestic environments, from independent fanzines to labyrinths. F.A’s work was awarded in several competitions and they will be presented at the 1st Biennale d’architecture et de paysage Versailles and at the Triennale di Milano, as curators of the Urban Center pavilion in 2019.
Stefano Graziani (IT)
Active at the crossroad between photography, art and architecture, Stefano Graziani contributes with an unconventional voice to the contemporary artistic discourse. His photos have been exhibited internationally at institutions such as Fondazione Prada in Milan, the Venice Architecture Biennale or the European Art Biennial Manifesta. Stefano currently teaches photography at Venice University and at Istituto Superiore para a Industrie Artistiche, in Urbino.
Sam Jacob (UK)
Sam Jacob is principal of Sam Jacob Studio for architecture and design, a practice whose work spans scales and disciplines from urban design through architecture, design, art and curatorial projects. Professor of Architecture at University of Illinois at Chicago and Visiting Professor at Yale School of Architecture, he was co-curator of the British Pavilion in Venice (2014). Columnist and critic for the online platform Dezeen and Art Review as well as Contributing Editor for Icon magazine. He was founding director of FAT Architecture, a London based practice developing a critical thought about architecture and relationship to history and ornament.
Ania Jaworska (PL)
 She is an architect, designer and educator. Jaworska holds a master's degree in architecture from Cracow University of Technology in Poland as well as the Cranbrook Academy of Art in Michigan, USA. Her work was presented at architectural events, from Venice Biennale, Chicago Architectural Biennale, as well as at MOMA, Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, Graham Foundation, amongst others.
Priya Khanchandani (UK)
Writer and researcher, editor of Icon Magazine, she was the Curator of the India Pavilion at London Design Biennale 2018. Previously she worked as Head of Arts Programmes for India at the British Council as well as at the Victoria and Albert Museum as lead of the Design Fund for contemporary acquisitions.
Kuehn Malvezzi (DE)
Founded in 2001 by Simona Malvezzi, Wilfried Kuehn and Johannes Kuehn in Berlin, their focus ranges from public spaces, to museums and exhibitions, as architects, designers and curators. They did the architectural design for Documenta 11, the Friedrich Christian Flick Collection in the Hamburger Bahnhof – Museum for Contemporary Art in Berlin, and the Julia Stoschek Collection in Dusseldorf. The firm has designed the reorganization of a number of contemporary and historical art collections, for several museums.
Éric Lapierre (FR)
Eric Lápierre, chief-curator of the 5th edition os Lisbon Architecture Triennale and curator of the exhibition Economy of Means
Éric Lapierre is an architect and theorist of the discipline. Founder and director of Éric Lapierre Experience (ELEx) - with works widely recognized, not only for his projects but also his critical essays. Éric Lapierre teaches at the National School of Architecture of Marne-la-Vallée (Paris), at the Federal Polytechnic School of Lausanne and was a guest lecturer at the Accademia di Architettura di Mendrisio, University of Montréal (UdM), Université du Québec à Montréal ) and KU Leuven in Ghent. He is the author of "Identification d'une ville - Architectures de Paris", 2002; Guide d'architecture de Paris 1900-2008, 2008; Le Point du Jour A Concrete Architecture, 2011; Architecture of The Real, 2004, and If the form scompare, its radice is eternal, 2017, among others.
David Leech Architects (UK)
After working at several European offices including Herzog de Meuron, Caruso St John architects and 6a architects in London, dePaor and Grafton architects in Dublin, David Leech established his own practice. The office is interested in exploring the idea of a richly economic architecture. David teaches architecture at the London Metropolitan University, and has been published widely including in the italian magazines Domus and Casabella, the Architectural Review and the Architects Journal from London, and Architecture Ireland.
Armin Linke (IT)
Born in Milan and living in Berlin. He is an artist who works with film and photography combining these different media to blur the border between fiction and reality. He is currently working on a continuous archive of human activities and very diverse natural and artificial landscapes. Linke works in collaboration with other authors, ranging from artists, designers, architects, historians and curators, narratives are procured on multiple levels.
Valérie Mannaerts (BE)
A sculptor as much as a painter, Valérie Mannaerts has developed a personal language characterized by her fascination with the real and the surreal, by exploring the physiognomic qualities of things, questioning the relation between organic and inorganic forms, the presence and autonomy of objects. Mannaerts creates hybrid, contradictory and precarious forms that are open to chance and formally circumscribed. Her work dwells in the borderline between image and object, in ways that are reminiscent of surrealist and, later, feminist preoccupations with material and image culture, corporeality and states of consciousness.
Kulttuurisauna (FI)
Kulttuurisauna is a public sauna on the Merihaka waterfront, in central Helsinki. The public bath  supports an independent architecture education programme: the New Academy. It operates in the form of open lectures, publications and projects in collaboration with universities, NGOs and other institutions.
Onsitestudio (IT)
Onsitestudio is an architectural practice founded in Milan in 2006 headed by Angelo Lunati and Giancarlo Floridi, both professors of architectural design at the Politecnico di Milano. Among the most relevant projects of the office, the Duca d’Aosta Hotel (2015), the Pirelli Learning Center (2016) and the Brussels Hotel Palace (2018). Onsitestudio believes in the tight relation between academic research and professional activity, combining an experimental dimension with an accurate control of design process.
Timothy Smith and Jonathan Taylor Architects (UK)
A London-based practice which considers that it is possible to have a creative modern architecture with traditional virtues. They enjoy a reputation as one of the most interesting classical practices of their generation. They direct the only architectural degree course in Europe to teach the principles and application of the classical language of architecture, at Kingston School of Art, London.
Philipp Schaerer (CH)
Swiss architect and visual artist. Since 2014, Schaerer is visiting professor at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Lausanne (EPFL). His work has been object of multiple publications and exhibitions and being represented in several collections, among others in the MoMA New York, the Centre Pompidou in Paris and the ZKM in Karlsruhe.
Francesca Torzo (IT)
Francesca Torzo studied in Delft, Barcelona, Mendrisio and Venezia, starting her own office in Genova in 2008. Since 2017 she’s a teacher at Bergen School of Architecture and a lecturer at a number of universities and cultural institutions. In 2018 she participated at the 16th Venice Architecture Biennale – Freespace – and was appointed Chairman of MVSF in Gent.
Bernard Tschumi (US)
He is an architect based in New York and Paris. First known as a theorist, Tschumi exhibited and published The Manhattan Transcripts and wrote Architecture and Disjunction, a series of theoretical essays. His major built works include the Parc de la Villette France, the Acropolis Museum, and Le Fresnoy Center for the Contemporary Arts. A retrospective exhibition of his work debuted at the Pompidou Centre in 2014 and travelled to Basel and Shanghai.
Truwant + Rodet (CH)
Truwant + Rodet is an office based in Basel (Switzerland), founded by Charlotte Truwant and Dries Rodet. Their projects, research and interests span between architecture, landscape urbanism, art and design. They investigate the correlation between space/landscape and the specific conditions they generate.
Jean-Benoit Vétillard (FR)
He founded his studio in 2014, developing a series of projects manifesting different scales of art, scenography and architecture. Jean-Benoit Vétillard is now teaching at the École d’Architecture de la Ville et des Territoires de Paris-Est. Besides his work in the studio, he has been a guest speaker at several conferences in Italy and France and his projects have been published in specialist magazines.
Lawrence Weiner (US)
Lawrence Weiner’s texts have appeared in all sorts of places over the last five decades, and although he sees himself as a sculptor rather than a conceptualist, he is among the trailblazers of the 1960s to present art as language. While Weiner's works exist only as language and can be displayed in any form, he is closely involved in manifestations, detailing the size of the font, the surface texture and placement of the paint or vinyl letters and indeed often inventing new fonts.
Urtzi Grau (ES)
He’s an architect, director of the Master of Architecture and Masters of Research at University of Technology of Sydney, co-founder of Fake Industries Architectural Agonism (FKAA) and of Gabriel & Guillermo Fernández-Abascal (GFA). Grau graduated from the Escola Tècnica Superior d'Arquitectura de Barcelona in 2000, was awarded by Columbia University in 2004, and is currently completing his Ph.D. at Princeton University on the 1970’s urban renewal of Barcelona.
Guillermo Fernández-Abascal (ES)
He is an architect and lecturer at UTS Sydney and co-director of GFA2 and GFA. Operating in Sydney, Australia and Santander, Spain, his recent work destabilises the dichotomy between research and buildings through diagrams, stories, exhibitions, films, prototypes, housing, and public buildings across the globe.
Yellow Office (IT)
YellowOffice, founded in 2008 and based is in Milan, is an architectural office with a particular focus on landscape architecture and urbanism. The practice brings together several scales of design processes: from territorial strategies, public and private spaces, parks, pavilions and cemeteries to objects, videos, illustrations, maps and exhibitions.
Point Supreme (GR)
Founded in 2008 in Rotterdam, the studio was created by Marianna Rentzou and Konstantinos Pantazis, after working in cities such as London, Brussels and Tokyo. Back in Athens, were they dedicate their work to research, architecture, urbanism, landscape and urban design, they were featured in a publication called “Athens Projects”. According to the Greek newspaper LIFO they’re among the 20 most influential personalities in Greece and were included in the Wallpaper* magazine's Architects Directory.
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