More Is More: Groovy Graphic Decoration In Architecture

Zachary Edelson

Are graphic design and architecture slowly reconciling?

Almost one hundred years ago architectural theorist Adolf Loos violently excoriated decorative design in his Ornament and Crime, arguing that surface decoration had no place in architecture. Loos famously compared the civilized modern man to the primitive tattooed “Papuan,” claiming that only the former had the sense to see that decorating one’s body was barbaric. For him, the arc of civilization inevitably led to the end of ornamental architecture.

Loos was more specifically rallying against the “total design” of Art Nouveau, which stipulated that architects should design not only homes but also everything in it: wallpaper, furniture, clothing, silverware, etc. Loos believed that total design created an environment so finely tuned to an individual that it stifled his or her ability to change or develop a singular identity. It was artistic intent run amok.

Instead, Loos advocated a minimalist design of simple surfaces, massing, and materials. His work profoundly influenced modern architects and in large part we can thank him for modernism’s minimalist aesthetic.

And yet projects today shy away from that minimalism even as they retain other modernist aesthetics. In an age of user interfaces, website design, and variegated printing technologies, it seems almost passé to agitate for blank surfaces. We’re a culture that thrives on color and graphic design (see: every website you’ll visit today).

Perhaps it only makes sense for our architecture to discover a new kind of vivid diversity? From pure decoration to functional utility, and everything in between, these projects are cutting a new path for the role of graphic surfaces in architecture.

St. Sebastian Kindergarten
Designed by BOLLES+WILSON
Münster, Germany
Photos: Markus Hauschild
Read more about this project in the Architizer database!

Parking Structure Tyrolean Festival
Designed by kleboth lindinger dollnig
Erl, Austria
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Jean Moulin School
Designed by Prinvault Architectes
Bernay, France
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Delicatessen nyc
Designed by Nemaworkshop
New York, United States
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Consulate General of Turkey
Designed by AYDIN GURSEL BAKIR
Geneva, Switzerland
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Maximiliano
Designed by FreelandBuck
Los Angeles, United States
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Society Consulting Offices
Designed by BUILD LLC
Bellevue, United States
Read more about this project in the Architizer database!