In Veszprém, a historic medieval town in western Hungary, 12 designers have coated walls of an aging school to illustrate the significance of architectural ornamentation and what it means for and to young architects today.
The Elementary School of Music (formerly the Industrial School) was designed by Hungarian architect Lajos Schoditsch, a building which sits across the street from the Petőfi Theater, designed by another Hungarian, István Medgyaszay. Both buildings are integral to the city’s architectural history and represent the changing use of motif and ornament in Hungarian architecture. Both are also scheduled to be renovated, with the now-vacant Elementary School of Music due to become an office building serving the theater.
Seizing the moment before the renovation, the Hungarian practice Paradigma Ariadné, led by Dávid Smiló, Attila Róbert Csóka, and Szabolcs Molnár, saw the chance for architectural intervention. Working with Heléna Csóka, the curators of the 12 Walls project invited designers from across Europe to come up with wall installations that riffed on the history of ornament embedded in the former school. The result is a series of painted walls vying for visual attention in a cacophony of color and ornamentation. Each wall has its own agenda, courtesy of the 12 designers. The walls serve as standalone works but end up interacting with adjacent and nearby painted walls to create a dazzling landscape inside the vacant building.
The designers and collectives commissioned include: Architecture Uncomfortable Workshop, Enorme Studio, False Mirror Office, Gyulai Levente, Adam Nathaniel Furman, Andrew Kovacs, MNPL Workshop, Giacomo Pala, Space Popular, TREES, Very Good Office, and Paradigma Ariadné itself.
“Many emerging architects and studios are struggling to settle with the repeatedly omitted, yet constantly resurfacing ornament,” the curators said in a statement. “Presenting different approaches by young collectives, the works at the exhibition examine the current roles and boundaries of the ornament, by appropriating the late Industrial School’s empty, undecorated walls.”
The majority of the walls are awash with bright colors. Austrian-based architect and researcher, Giacomo Pala’s wall, titled, Frank Variation, riffs on the work of Austrian architect, Josef Frank. According to Pala, he was one of the first modern architects to deal with ornament, and Pala’s work abstracts the late architect’s approach to city planning, interior schemes, and watercolor architectural paintings.
British designer Adam Nathaniel Furman’s wall, Diadema, bursts with even more color. In a kaleidoscopic arrangement, brightly colored triangles and ellipses splay out across the wall creating an almost 3-D illusion. “Ornament is not a language. Ornament doesn’t speak,” he said in a short text describing his work. “Ornament is the flush in the cheek, the color of life in the eye…it is the vigor of the fleshly moment captured in time for anyone and everyone who enters a space. Diadema is a taste of this, a crowning moment of chromatic delight in miniature.”
Space Popular, formed by Lara Lesmes and Fredrik Hellberg and based in London, has created one of the few walls to use text. At first glance, Tilt Lines looks like it was made with CAD sketching tools, but the piece was crafted by hand instead of digital tools to depict what Space Popular describe as an “endless mass.”
“Working with the line in 3-D space highlights the fact the we tend to identify spaces with enclosures,” the firm added. “This notion is challenged when we are given a brush that draws in mid-air and we desperately try to fill in surfaces, consequently making everything look like gingerbread houses.”
Only one installation refrains from using color and that comes from MNPL Workshop from Odessa, Ukraine. The monochrome pattern has a hidden message, however. “By eliminating unnecessary decorative elements for modern society, modernism created a perfect environment for filling with elements of marketing and advertisement,” said MNPL in a statement. One such element is a corporate logo and numerous logos have been embedded into the black and white ornamentation by MNPL.