"Ornament shapes, straightens and stabilizes the bare arid field on which it is inscribed. Not only does it exist in and of itself, but it also shapes its own environment -- to which it imparts form." (Henri Focillon, The Life of Forms in Art, p. 66) For Heinrich Wölfflin, ornament is an epression of an excessive force of form. It is "the blossoming of a force that has nothing more to achieve." (p.181) Antoine Picon echoes this association of ornament with potency. "like order and proportion, ornament expressed the fundamental regularity of the universe, and, above all, its fecundity. Ornament, in general, gave evidence to the creativity and the beauty of the cosmic order, just as the fruits and flowers that if often imitated were the products and finery of nature." ("Architecture, Science, Technology and the Virtual Realm" in Architecture and the Sciences, p. 298.) 

Focillon describes two attitudes towards the background, or void. In the "system of the series," the void is maintained through a system composed of discontinuous elements sharply outlined, with a stable and symmetrical space around them that protects them against unforeseen metamorphosis. In the "system of the labyrinth," the void is cancelled out. The eye moves across the labyrinth in confusion, and a new dimension arises which gives the illusion of movement and depth. In Celtic gospels, for instance, the ornament seems to be shifting among different planes at different speeds. (p.67) 

Focillon's "system of the series" ressembles striated space as described by Deleuze and Guattari, or the architectural concept of "objects" in space, as described by revisionist critics like Colin Rowe, while the system of the labyrinth recalls the smooth. Focillon goes on to distinguish different relations of form to space, between space as a limit and space as an environment. 

For Gottfried Semper the Greek word cosmos signifies cosmic order and adornment alike. (see sacred / profane) In Style in the Technical and Tectonic Arts or Practical Aesthetics, (1860-63) Semper engages in a hermeneutic quest (what Rykwert calls an "interpretative taxonomy") to interpret form symbolically through the visual residues of the technical operations underlying artistic creation. "By virtue of the inherent lawfulness that these processes impose on form making, architecture comes to be defined in its essence as an ornamental activity." (p.29) For Semper, ornament can bring out latent potential, as for example, when clothing and bodily ornament "clothe the naked form with an elucidating symbolism." (see organicism ) 

Mark Wigley develops this idea that for Semper ornament is primary and associates this with both polychromy and a gendered reading of architecture. (If the feminine is identified with decoration and guile, while the masculine is associated with form -- cf Kant's charm vs beauty)