Venice: Surface, Geometry, Texture, Colour

Workshop tutors:  Gani Turunç, Mehmet Erbudak, Jörg Niederberger


It has been exactly 110 years since the Austrian modernist architect Adolf Loos’s essay “Ornament und Verbrechen” (Ornament and Crime) assumed its place in the history of architecture. Guess it would not be an exaggeration to regard Venice as the capital of ornamental art which Loos belittled as a sign of “primitive cultures”. One comes across numerous colours, forms and dimensions of decorative practices in this city which has a very rich historical and cultural infrastructure. Even though the Modernist followers of Loos take a dim view of the subject, Venice has preserved it artistic value to date. Probing this subject in the framework of La Biennale di Venezia in a workshop with the participants stands before us as an exciting opportunity.

The culture of ornamentation which is as old as the history of humanity has gone through various phases and preserved its currency. We see this branch of art in all cultural, religious, geographic and social formations. Even though it appears as a manifestation of “being wealthy”, ornamental art can actually be interpreted as a sort of communication tool. This method which we come across on façade and indoor decorations that are inspired by nature, and which usually entails the periodic covering of spaces with the same or different pieces, has been enriched with the developments in mathematics and geometry. Additionally, quasi-periodic symmetries have also come into prominence in the Roman Empire from Africa to England, in the Byzantine era from the Middle East to Italy, and in Islam from Afghanistan to Mozarabic Spain. The emergence of architectural rosettes that we encounter in European cathedrals and palaces has been parallel to the advancements in mathematics and geometry. Today, artistic works on surfaces and textures are applied as graffiti, graphic and colour design. Interactive digital surfaces can be included in this as well.

Taking advantage of the idea of the Pavilion of Turkey’s curator Kerem Piker and his team, which can be summarized as “seeing and learning by traveling”, the main goal of our workshop at La Biennale will be to trace the surfaces, textures and colours in the city of Venice. As the workshop coordinators we aim to probe the structural aspects of the subject with architect Gani Turunç from Dolmus Architekten, its mathematical and geometrical foundations with physicist Mehmet Erbudak and its reflections on space and colours with painter Jörg Niederberger on an interdisciplinary platform. Architect Franz Schmid with expertise in artistic design will also support us. The final critique to be conducted with Vitra Design Museum curator Jolanthe Kugler will further contribute to evaluating the subject through the lens of design.