What We Are Reading Today: The Grammar of Ornament by Owen Jones

Updated 12 February 2019
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What We Are Reading Today: The Grammar of Ornament by Owen Jones

  • The Grammar of Ornament celebrates objects of beauty from across time periods and continents

First published in 1856, The Grammar of Ornament remains a design classic. Its inspiration came from pioneering British architect and designer Owen Jones (1809–1874), who produced a comprehensive design treatise for the machine age, lavishly illustrated in vivid chromolithographic color. Jones made detailed observations of decorative arts on his travels in Europe, the Middle East, and in his native London, where he studied objects on display at the Great Exhibition of the Works of Industry of All Nations in 1851 and at local museums. His aim was to improve the quality of Western design by changing the habits of Victorian designers, who indiscriminately mixed elements from a wide variety of sources.

Jones’s resulting study is a comprehensive analysis of styles of ornamental design, presenting key examples ranging from Maori tattoos, Egyptian columns, and Greek borders to Byzantine mosaic, Indian embroidery, and Elizabethan carvings. The Grammar of Ornament celebrates objects of beauty from across time periods and continents. and remains an indispensable sourcebook today.

Owen Jones (1809–74) was an English-born Welsh architect and one of the most important design theorists of the 19th century. He taught applied arts at the South Kensington School of Design in the 1850s and served as Superintendent of Works at the Great Exhibition of 1851.


What We Are Reading Today: The Plaid Model

Updated 16 February 2019
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What We Are Reading Today: The Plaid Model

Author: Richard Evan Schwartz

Outer billiards provides a toy model for planetary motion and exhibits intricate and mysterious behavior even for seemingly simple examples. It is a dynamical system in which a particle in the plane moves around the outside of a convex shape according to a scheme that is reminiscent of ordinary billiards.
The Plaid Model, which is a self-contained sequel to Richard Schwartz’s Outer Billiards on Kites, provides a combinatorial model for orbits of outer billiards on kites, says a review on the Princeton University Press website. Schwartz relates these orbits to such topics as polytope exchange transformations, renormalization, continued fractions, corner percolation, and the Truchet tile system.
The combinatorial model, called “the plaid model,” has a self-similar structure that blends geometry and elementary number theory.
The results were discovered through computer experimentation and it seems that the conclusions would be extremely difficult to reach through traditional mathematics.