In the documentary “Sketches of Frank Gehry,” American architect Frank Gehry (b. 1929) says, “I grew up a modernist. Decoration is a sin.”
A sin, really? Does Mr. Gehry believe that Notre Dame would be better off stripped of its angels and gargoyles? Would he stucco over the arabesques of the Alhambra? Would he delete the ornaments from the Parthenon?
Although I respect some aspects of Mr. Gehry’s work, I disagree with him on this point. In able hands, decoration is a gift, a joy, virtue. Decoration is not a frosting applied to form. When it’s well orchestrated, it meets our fundamental desire for visual rhythm, order, and variety of scale.
Decoration in some form has been central to every visual culture through all history and across all cultures, until it was banished by the priests of minimalism in the twentieth century. The absence of decoration is one cause of the sterility and impoverishment of much modern architecture.
If decoration is a sin, then I’m a sinner. If I’m going out to a concert, I’d rather go to the Paris Opera, which is gloriously decorated.....
.....than Gehry’s Fisher Center for the Performing Arts, Bard College, New York (above), which is not.
"Sketches of Frank Gehry" Documentary--2 minute trailer
Notre Dame Cathedral
Alhambra on Wikipedia
Parthenon on Wikipedia
Frank Gehry on Wikipedia
addendum: Adolf Loos's 1908 essay "Ornament and Crime" on Wikipedia
Thanks, Digitect and Christoph Heuer