Materials and surfaces: new identities for decoration | by Cinzia Pagni

Ornamentation is no longer a crime. Designers’ attitudes towards decoration have changed enormously in recent years, reflecting the lack of homogeneity in today’s design language. The same architecture and design critics who until just a few decades ago were willing to recognise only the quality and reliability of architects who identified with the Modern Movement are now admitting that in our flexible, multi-ethnic and hyperconnected society decoration has reclaimed its role as an expression of the complexity of the contemporary world. No less importantly, in the present scenario where non-homogeneity has become a design language in its own right, the industry’s research into the expressive capabilities of new materials has opened up enormous aesthetic potential.

Surfaces become sensitive and communicative, a medium for the interplay between subject and object. They allow for interactivity between form and function, where what is perceived is the interface, the communicative surface through which the subject relates to the object.  With the advent of modern technology, the theme of decoration has re-emerged due to its ability to draw on all languages, from the most traditional artforms such as mosaic and sculpture through to highly innovative techniques such as 3D printing, as well as the numerous technical procedures developed in sectors as diverse as fashion, graphic design, light art and cinema. Ornamentation has reaffirmed its role as a key component of the decorative process, while its complexity and close links with architecture driven by hybridisation with other materials and disciplines have helped establish it within today’s cultural landscape.

Decoration takes on two forms: tactile and visual. Texture is a medium in its own right that links materials with humans and makes things perceptible. Although the tactility of materials is not an objectively measurable parameter, designers exploit these intangible qualities to create works that reflect the mentality of the user. Their ability to arouse emotions is extremely important in today’s world in which we are driven to spectacularise our everyday lives and create memorable stories. Ultimately, we are rediscovering the pleasure of tradition while using innovative materials that combine advanced technology with high levels of performance.

Watch the video of the conference held at Cersaie 2018.

May 2019