AB1005: The Decorated Shed Tattoo
The dichotomy between the “Duck” and the “Decorated Shed” as opposing architectural typologies was established in Learning from Las Vegas by Robert Venturi, Denise Scott Brown, and Steven Izenour. In this pairing, a Duck building is one in which the overall form is subjugated by symbolism, whereas a Decorated Shed building is programme-driven in form, with symbolism applied secondarily as ornament. Turning the heroic glory of the conventional manifesto on its head, Learning from Las Vegas lambasted the gratuity of Duck buildings, proposing the “ugly and ordinary” Decorated Shed as the nobler alternative. This anti-manifesto specifically advises architects to follow a mode of practice in which sculptural expression is replaced by graphic expression.
Architecture Burger project number AB1005, the Decorated Shed Tattoo, appropriates Venturi, Scott Brown and Izenour’s sketch and transforms it into a tattoo for the upper arm.
At its most literal, this tattoo serves as a mildly ironic totem, identifying the bearer as belonging to the class of architects in much the same way that professional seamen and gangbangers (not to mention branded cattle) carry the markings of their trades. The tattoo’s image declares allegiance to the humbler class of buildings that the Decorated Shed represents.
More symbolically, the tattoo transforms the famous sketch of the Decorated Shed into a form of decoration; the architect’s body, seemingly a kind of Duck in its form, is itself transformed into a Decorated Shed.
Scroll to the right for photographs.
Credits: tattoo installed by Jim Parchen at Art & Soul Tattoo Co.