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Von Wersins Kitchen

The architect, curator and designer Wolfgang von Wersin (1882-1976) wrote Das elementäre Ornament und seine Gesetzlichkeit (‘The Elementary Ornament and its Laws’) in 1940. In his book, Von Wersin briefly sets out what he considers the base elements of ornamentation: forms that recur throughout history and are repeatedly developed by each new civilisation into entirely unique creations and styles.

It functions as a key to look at all kinds of different forms of ornament in utilitarian objects. The tendency of people to decorate things is universal, the recognition of a pattern is a form of joy. The Palace of Typographic Masonry has the curiosity and urge to get to know the many types of ornaments and 'Von Wersin's Kitchen', housed in the Department of the Ornament, is the starting point in this.

The original source collection contains 24 examples from Von Wersin's book, following the scheme of three different sequences: simple, alternate or crosswise. The forms used within these, – in a linear or patchy design – are elemental, unanimous, polyphonic or forms enriched with motifs from nature. Here you find, for example, woven baskets from Namibia, mosaics from present-day Iraq or various Japanse farmer texiles.

The updated source collection attempts to provide an overview of how the 24 categories of elementary decorative elements and their basic forms in Von Wersin's scheme can be recognised in a variety of graphic design objects. This collection partly acts as a conduit to other archives (the Special Collections of the UVA, Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam collection, Museum Meermanno, the NAGO collections (Wim Crouwel Institute) and the archive of Sound and Vision) in the Network of Archives Design and Digital Culture (NADD).

In this room