Journal of Romance Studies

Ornament, memory and the cosmopolitan city

Journal of Romance Studies (2007), 7, (1), 95–110.

Abstract

Late modernism frowned on applied ornament, reinforcing the production of plain, monolithic urban architecture. Plunging into one Asian textile shop in Tooting, London, I analysed its contents through drawing them, investigating both functional items that were patterned as a result of structural repetition and ornamental ones such as embroidered saris. The outcome was A Patois of Pattern, an artist’s book. Its collocation of disparate spatial ideas makes visible fundamental discontinuities between world views: between those located in ‘cultural memory’ and ‘identity’ and those which not long ago intended to create a future universal, homogenized utopia through rationalism and standardization. With this focus I suggest that in ‘the imagined city’ more open understandings of ‘culture’ and ‘identity’ might inform the urban environment if architecture were to reflect such varied meaning and memory, folding together a wider, more inclusive range of understandings of time, space, place and pace.

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Scalway, Helen