Open Access Te Herenga Waka-Victoria University of Wellington
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Architecture as Ornament

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posted on 2021-08-17, 19:46 authored by Turner, Kathryn

We are currently in the middle of the 4th industrial revolution, where digital technology and fabrication tools have the potential to drastically change the way we think about architecture. Contemporary architectural design is now being driven by an influx of digital tools, including parametric modelling, digital fabrication, and robotics. These tools allow designers to create forms with complexity, creating new textures, patterns and styles, they are however being under-utilised. Because the focus of these methods remains on mass-production and efficiency, as they were from the second industrial revolution, architecture has now become sleek and un-ornamental. When ornamentation is used it is now generally limited to façade design, and the focus is towards ideas such as tessellation and repetition. These styles can sometimes be successful, however they lack the sense of depth and craft that classical ornamentation once had. A variety of social, cultural, technological and historical influences means that contemporary ornamentation no longer holds the significance and importance it once had. This research questions this reality and explores the use of contemporary computational design and fabrication techniques to understand how ornamentation can be revitalised and reimagined in contemporary architecture.

By building upon literature and case study analysis, this research uses the architectural column as a design mechanism, and parametric modelling to redefine the place that ornamentation has in contemporary architecture. By using a process of visual scripting and digital modelling, these techniques are used to explore how digital tools and the influence of history can reimagine ornamentation. This research process begins with small-scale digital tests which then translate into small-scale prototypes through the use of additive manufacturing. After an evaluation and critical-reflection of these prototypes, these ideas are translated into clay prototypes by using robotic fabrication. To further refine and finalise the designs the research is then applied to an architectural design context, and a final large-scale column is robotically fabricated. This final stage works to clearly show the design intent, to understand not only how traditional ideas and nature can be translated into contemporary designs, but also how the process of parametric design can create design variation, rather than identically replicated components. This research found that there is an immense amount of potential for using these visual scripting tools and methods of digital fabrication for revitalising ornament, creating mass-customisable architecture, not mass-replications.


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Date of Award



Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

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Author Retains Copyright

Degree Discipline


Degree Grantor

Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Degree Level


Degree Name

Master of Architecture (Professional)

ANZSRC Type Of Activity code


Victoria University of Wellington Item Type

Awarded Research Masters Thesis



Victoria University of Wellington School

Wellington School of Architecture


Marriage, Guy; Welch, Chris