3rd June 2015
In The Stones of Venice, Ruskin declared that ‘the function of ornament is to make you happy’, a simple principle that I am happy to subscribe to. I certainly don’t share the modernist suspicion of ornament which goes all the way back to Adolf Loos, who thought that ornament in architecture was an early stage of cultural evolution that we ought to grow out of and so is like crime (he never said ornament is a crime).
Every now and then, however, even an arch-modernist cannot avoid a fleeting moment of happiness when an entirely functional task takes on an accidentally decorative form. A good example is a step flashing, such as the one I made and fitted today to weather the junction between our greenhouse roof and the brick wall it buts up against. The result is not exactly the Chrysler Building but a whiff of Art Deco is inescapable.
The step flashing covers the gap between the two structures and is tucked into the brickwork so that any rainwater coming own the wall tracks onto the greenhouse roof from where it heads to the newly-installed gutter. To make it, I had to carefully measure up and cut out the pieces of lead; grind the mortar out of the appropriate courses of bricks; install and pin the lead in place, folding the lead into the gaps between the bricks; and finally repoint the bricks. It wasn’t easy but the result should keep us dry in the greenhouse below, which is designed to be delightful in all sorts of unexpected ways.