The Form Stage And Its Enrichment

With an understanding of such basic principles as proportioning, balance, and plasticity, with some knowledge of plastic materials, we are now ready to enter into the last stage of contemporary design, that of form and its enrichment.

While the volumetric stage was concerned with the functional and aesthetic motives of the whole; while the massand-space stage dealt with structural fundamental elements, their pattern thrusts, balances, and rhythms; this, the last stage, deals with methods of construction and the enrichment of the form. In many instances, beautiful construction is the enrichment; but, due to the flowing, growing, plastic qualities of modern design, the construction is not obtrusive, and must not appear to be put together, piece by piece. Long, continuous, flowing lines, therefore, are much in evidence; secret dovetail joints, and excellent craftsmanship. These constructive points and their subordination to the spaces and masses, to light and shade, are a swing away from traditional forms in which emphasis was placed on such details as arms, legs, and so on, with these members frequently becoming elements carrying almost unsupportable weights of enrichment, as seen in the elaborately carved legs of the Empire period of furniture design.

Modernists feel that more beauty is to be obtained by simple beauty of line and mass of the volumetric subdivisions, rather than enrichment of the structural parts, which, from their point of view, tends to weaken rather than strengthen construction. Hence, durability becomes more

and more possible as enrichment emphasis is transferred from constructive features to the large planes of the structure, and to emphasizing major thrusts and counter thrusts rather than leg, arm, and back details.

Modern embellishment, then, is simple and free from all forms making for weak construction or interfering with effective functioning. Dust-catching ornament is out of the picture. Delicately carved and frail furniture, current in the 90s, imitating hand-made furniture, but developed by the machine—in fact, broken and discarded furniture—is witness against these frailties. There is and has been much fine period furniture, well made and in every way attractive; but we are referring to the cheap, poorly constructed imitations, the stuffy Victorian red-plush affairs and whatnots, which surely were far from being perfect home furniture.

As this is the age of the machine, the machine, then, should become a tool for producing beauty; and, indeed, our fine veneers are a direct result of modern methods, while the flowing lines and plastic relations are products of the circular saw and jointer. Modernism advocates mass production, the spreading of enduring beauty in furniture design at low cost to all who desire it.

Style

Paul Frankl calls style a symbol of man's creative genius. Change is the life of style. Moreover, "style is an external expression of the inner spirit of a given time/' Thus into our form-and-mass structure must be designed a freshness, directness, and stability, a freedom from the prejudice of past traditions which are considered wholly out of touch with this, the machine age. The machine must be considered, not as a vehicle of production, but as a means of mass creative production; and thus machine construction actually becomes the expression of the inner spirit of our present life, making the designer the master of the machine, not its slave.

The Form Stage % Large. Volumes. enrichment by accenting contours in sympathy with g e n eral thrust.

note mass

^ fig. 65. for m stage z balanc/l ^ horizontal thrust d oh i na nt. simple enrichment by rounding contours to support thrust©

FIG. ©4. BLOCKING OUT STAGE-. STRUCTURE PLANNED BY SPACES AND MASSES WELL PROPORTIONED AND BALANCED • DEEP PENETRATION.

fig. ôô. shallow penetrations appendages accentuating thrusts« note thrust balance and sharp angles«

  1. 67. enrichment by accented contours • pattern softer than fig. 66 by use of curves. lightness through perforation •
  2. 6ô.handle as an accenting appendage •
  3. 6ô.handle as an accenting appendage •
  4. 67. enrichment by accented contours • pattern softer than fig. 66 by use of curves. lightness through perforation •

While certain styles in this book may and probably will become obsolete (for style must change or die), the principles are sound and will lead to the creation of new forms in keeping with old and tried principles. This is an experimental age; and, in the spirit of this age, designers constantly are experimenting with new forms and materials out of which styles originate.

Integrated Enrichment

Throughout this chapter, the term "enrichment" rather than ornament has been used to designate the difference between the terms. The term "ornament", has been associated with decoration frequently more of less nonplastic, in that it was applied, rather than integrated, with the design. Enrichment, as used in this book, stands for increased beauty which does not interfere with function; and, what is very much to the point, it stands for beauty and enrichment which has been integrated with the design, is a part of it, or, to use a popular phrase, has been "built into" the furniture.

Technique of the Form Stage

With the preceding paragraphs by way of preamble to the modern spirit of enrichment and of form, we can better understand the procedure. Referring to Figure 64, Plate 8, there is shown a low stand roughed out into its structural mass and space, with careful attention paid to the balancing of the pattern. In Figure 65, the form stands revealed, its constructive parts shown with sufficient clarity for design purposes.

It is not the purpose of this book to enter into details of construction, which may be obtained from many excellent books on the subject; nevertheless, it must again be repeated that constructive features, as separate parts, must neither be obviously concealed nor conspicuously prominent. The plasticity herein developed, that sense of growing and flow ing of line, must be retained as a modern feature, a principle aided by letting the masses themselves become supports, as in Figures 99 and 100, with large silencers raising the mass from the floor. This, of course, does not do away with legs as supports; but, as we shall see, legs frequently extend in long lines, beyond their traditional terminations, to emphasize long, flowing lines of growth and the thrusts resulting from the typical modern construction.

Modes of Enrichment

There are three principal modes of enriching structure:

Mode 1. The first is developed by placing emphasis on the attractive qualities of the materials of structure. For example, the beauties of rare and native woods, used either in unbroken areas or in patterns, is typical of the mode. The uses of contrasting materials, glass and metal, metal and wood, wood and plastics, bring out sophisticated and brilliant effects very much in keeping with the steel and glass house of today, and equally attractive in more conservative residences. *

Mode 2. The second form of enrichment is by accentuating in various ways the general thrust of the volumetric mass or by accentuating the thrusts of minor volumes. Bands of enamel, plastic bands, shadows, metal inlays, wood inlays: all are accenting media. Recently, appendages—small masses, as handles, knobs, and so on—have been radically changed in appearances; several handles may be combined to act as one mass and thus deliver a more powerful thrust than would several small handles, at the same time making for simplicity of pattern.

Mode 3. The third mode is by relieving the monotony of plain surfaces. Here we have a chance to use color, different materials, veneer, salient and sunken plastic forms, and many other simple devices which will be introduced as we advance in knowledge of new design processes.

Subdivision of Modes of Enrichment in Relation to Their Effects on Masses

A. Surface Enrichment

The three modes of enrichment still further may be divided into two groups. The first is surface enrichment, which does not penetrate into the volume. Under this head comes the use of natural wood, veneering, and paint or enamel. The natural wood grain and veneers contribute to the surface textures (see Chapter Eight, page 91) and variety of movement frequently used to support major or minor thrusts. A rich variety of movement, ranging from the effects of line shown in straight, close-grained wood to the lively rhythms of the crotched patterns and burls, supplies vitality and life to support the dynamic volumes of modern conception.

Then, too, woods add the element of color and tone. Tone is defined in terms of the light and dark variations found in different degrees in wood graining and is not concerned with color, but with the light and dark aspects. Thus satinwood and ebony form startling tonal contrasts; mahogany and ebony, a quiet subdued effect; but, in the uses of veneers, it is well for the beginner to avoid extreme tonal contrasts and adopt moderate variations in tone. Small spots of dark or small areas of light will give sparkle in small objects; but one must remember that these elements of enrichment are classed as surface enrichment and are not intended to give the effect of penetration or of projection of the volume.

B. Plastic Enrichment

In the two groups of enrichment, the second deals with plastic enrichment or enrichment which is actually cut into the volume, giving the effect of light and shade, modelling and increasing the growing or flowing effect of the original character of the volume. As plastic enrichment is for beauty forms typical constructive: features contrasts between old amd mew forms*

fig. 69 » queen anme fl g. 70. modern fig.71.modern arh low boy: note curved leg- leg construction. construction.

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