Architects appreciate texture. Textures in building materials: wood, concrete, stone, marble, bricks, blocks, glass, metals, corrugated iron.

banksia wood - a textured but smooth surface


rammed earth brick wall

stone floor

textured glass door panel

slate - architects' favorite

Textures in landscaping: textured foliage, bark, grasses, succulents, cacti, hedges, pebbles, paving and stone walls, railway sleepers, iron, and rust rust rust.

texture in landscaping

bluestone garden wall

bluestone garden wall

architectural textural plantings

the rough and the smooth- Hemeroscopium House by Ensamble Studio Madrid

wang-shu ningbo-museum - image from

Ningbo Historic Museum designed by Wang Shu, Amateur Architecture Studio.

rust - bar guru in Athens. KLab Architects

But here’s something curious.

Architects of Modernist training are ambivalent about texture. There’s a difference between the hardware and the software, the architecture and the furnishings. The  ‘hardware’, materials used for buildings and landscaping, can be patterned and textured. Yet textures in the ‘software’, objects and textiles used to domesticate spaces, soft furnishings and wallpapers, were constrained or banished from the architect’s home for decades.

Until the last decade or so many architects resisted textured fabrics, curtains, wallpapers, rugs:  anything with velvet, chenille, tassels, embroidery, beading, was associated with poorly educated interior decorators and homemakers.

adornment as immoral

chenille bedspreads

hans van bentem chandelier: architects may engage ironically with traditional adornments such as the chandelier.

Like Adolf Loos architects have a passion for “smooth and precious surfaces” (Studio International, 1973, Volume 186, Number 957, “Adolf Loos: the new vision” ) and have an innate trust of those who are compelled to drape, cover, embellish, their interior and exterior spaces and surfaces. Architecture is art, it is enough.

See my post: The protestant desire for the clean surface.

Not only are such adornments at odds with the modernist spirit, working against minimalism and functionalism, but they have been demonised, seen as unnecessary, even immoral, distracting and detracting from architecture. Adolf Loos characterised adornment as immoral and degenerate, and linked the tendencies towards adornment as primitive, wasting time, resources and effort that are better channelled towards rational progress. He claimed that the ‘primitives’ in Papua New Guinea who tatooed themselves and spent time on body embellishment had not evolved to more ‘civilized’ states.(Loos, A. (1908). Ornament and Crime. Innsbruck, reprint Vienna, 1930).

Postmodernist architecture and philosophy in the 1980s challenged many modernist assumptions and today even minimalist architects embrace texture in fabrics and furnishings. Architects play with adornment: ethnic or ‘primitive’ rugs and ceramics are allowed. They may find ways to tolerate (within their designed spaces) select items with shag pile, faux fur, animal hides or treated leathers. They may even tolerate throws and curtains made from highly textured  fabrics, organic and synthetic. Such trends (away from or towards embellishment) may follow economic and cultural patterns, changing consumption practices and preferences. Even post GFC, our consumer culture affirms luxury and adornment. Any architect who assumes the higher moral ground in relation to such fun is likely to alienate potential clients.

Architects today may allow clients to integrate favorite adornments into their home, such as ethnic rug, velvet couch, chandelier

As the architect  indulges a client’s  interest in ornate wallpapers, chandeliers, ottomans and drapes, you may notice s/he does so in an ironic way (“oh I get it, in the style of  West Wing? or “as in the Sopranos”, or “you’re thinking Starke’s  LA hotels?“) Irony is used to manage the architect’s deep ambivalence towards textured adornments.

Gehry embracing textured interior elements


4 responses to “Archi-Texture

  1. Another great post! I love reading you blog. It inspires me to listen more when my husband talks about work.

    • Thanks – a happy but unintended side effect. They’re lucky to have passion for their their profession, aren’t they? They do seem to really love architecture and design, no matter how frustrating the realities of daily practice can be. I’ve found a great magazine called “Make” that really appeals to architects and gives them great projects to work on with their kids.

  2. I love the chandelier. It reminds me of something.. can’t really make out what it is though..

  3. informative…enlightening

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