Contextual studies (literature review)

In architectural design, symbols and ornamentation are key elements that are used to demonstrate the ideas of wealth or power. For many years, these elements have created a true definition of what a culture sees as important (Crouch & Johnson, 2001). However, in the last century, these two elements have vastly divided architects in ways they design buildings. Some of the architects cited them as obsolete and insignificant elements impeding cultural development. In contrast, other practitioners describe symbol and ornamentation to be necessary for communicating societal ideas. Several studies have been written over the course of the last century regarding the relevance and irrelevance of the two elements in the context of architectural design. For example, in 1977, Charles Jencks wrote a book titled The Language of Post-Modern Architecture during the period in which architectural ideas were being massively challenged (Jencks et al., 1977). In most part of his book, Jencks indicate that postmodernism architecture has alienated the architects their ideas to develop better designs (Jencks, 2002). He argues that using less decorative elements such as symbols as well as architectural aesthetic makes a design lose its meaning and create confusion of what it is communicating (Broadbent, Bunt and Jencks, 1980). He uses Mies Van Der Rohe to support his argument that use of modern elements “fetishized the impoverished use of I-Beams and plate glass’ (pg.15) meaning they are completely overlooked; hence, raising the question of decorum and appropriateness. Although he is not a supporter of postmodernism, Jencks argues that modern architecture needs to be diverse in regards to its use of styles in different locations and situations.