Adolf Loos

Adolf Loos (1870-1933) ranks as one of the most important pioneers of the modern movement in architecture. Ironically, his influence was based largely on a few interior designs and a body of controversial essays. Adolf Loos 's buildings were rigorous examples of austere beauty, ranging from conventional country cottages to planar compositions for storefronts and residences. His built compositions were little known outside his native Austria during his early years of practice.

Adolf Loos was born in Brno (Bruenn), Moravia, now Czech republic, on December 10, 1870. Adolf Loos was introduced to the craft of building at an early age while working in his father's stone masonry shop. At the age of seventeen. Adolf Loos attended the Royal and Imperial State College at Reichenberg in Bohemia. In 1889 Adolf Loos was drafted for one year of service in the Austrian army. From 1890 to 1893, Adolf Loos studied architecture at the Technical College in Dres den. As a student, Adolf Loos was particularly interested in the works of the classicist Schinkel and, above all, the works of Vitruvius. Adolf Loos 's developing tastes were considerably broadened during a three-year stay in the United States, which began in 1893. The 23-year-old architect was particularly impressed by what Adolf Loos regarded as the innovative efficiency of U.S. industrial buildings, clothing, and household furnishings. In 1896, Adolf Loos returned to Vienna where Adolf Loos began working in the building firm of Carl Mayreder.

In 1897, in the pages of The Neue Freie Presse of Vienna, Adolf Loos initiated a series of polemic articles that later established his international reputation. Adolf Loos did not directly address architecture in his writings. Instead, Adolf Loos examined a wide range of social ills, which Adolf Loos identified as the motivating factors behind the struggle for a transformation of everyday life. Adolf Loos 's writings focused increasingly on what Adolf Loos regarded as the excess of decoration in both traditional Viennese design and in the more recent products of the Vienna Secession and the Wiener Werkstatte. In 1898, in the pages of the review Ver Sacrum, which was an organ of the Wiener Secession, Adolf Loos published an essay that marked the beginning of a long theoretical opposition to the then popular art noveau movement. His theories culminated in a short essay entitled, "Ornament And Crime," published in 1908. To Adolf Loos, the lack of ornament in architecture was a sign of spiritual strength. Adolf Loos referred to the opposite, excessive ornamentation, as criminal - not for abstract moral reasons, but because of the economics of labor and wasted materials in modern industrial civilization. Adolf Loos argued that because ornament was no longer an important manifestation of culture, the worker dedicated to its production could not be paid a fair price for his labor. The essay rapidly became a theoretical manifesto and a key document in modernist literature and was widely circulated abroad. Le Corbusier later attributed "an Homeric cleansing" of architecture to the work.

Another point of contention decried by Adolf Loos was the masking of the true nature and beauty of materials by useless and indecent ornament. In his 1898 essay entitled "Principles of Building," Adolf Loos wrote that the true vocabulary of architecture lies in the materials themselves, and that a building should remain "dumb" on the outside. In his own work, Adolf Loos contrasted austere facades with lavish interiors. Much like Mies van der Rohe, Adolf Loos arrived at the reduction of architecture to a purely technical tautology that emphasized the simple assemblage of materials. This article was followed by the 1910 essay entitled "Architecture," in which Adolf Loos explained important contradictions in design: between the interior and the exterior, the monument and the house, and art works and objects of function. To Adolf Loos, the house did not belong to art because the house must please everyone, unlike a work of art, which does not need to please anyone. The only exception, that is, the only constructions that belong both to art and architecture, were the monument and the tombstone. Adolf Loos felt that the rest of architecture, which by necessity must serve a specific end, must be excluded from the realm of art.

In 1899, Adolf Loos designed the Cafe Museum, which proved to be one of the most notable projects of his early work. The austere interior was a mature architectural embodiment of his theorized renunciation of stylish ornamentation. The starkness of the "untattooed" facade that inspired the popular name Cafe Nihilismus asserted Adolf Loos 's developing theory of the predominance of technique over decoration. The cafe also affirms his aesthetic equation of beauty and utility by bringing every object back to its purely utilitarian value. To Adolf Loos, that which is beautiful must also be useful. Thus, the only elements Adolf Loos used to pattern the vaulted ceiling of the cafe interior were strips of brass, which also served as electrical conductors. A more refined work, the tiny Karntner Bar Vienna (1907), reveals in microcosm the architect's great sensitivity to spatial manipulation. Once again, Adolf Loos showed his fondness for the expressive use of natural materials as Adolf Loos skillfully manipulated classical materials including marble, onyx, wood, and mirror, into a careful composition of visual patterns.

Between 1909 and 1911, Adolf Loos designed and constructed one of his best known works, the controversial Looshaus in the Michaelerplatz, in the heart of old Vienna. This complex design enunciated theorems on the relationship between the memory of the historic past of a great city and the invention of the new city based on the modern work of architecture. The design was characterized by a mute facade from which all ornamental plastic shapes were absent. For Adolf Loos, the language of the environment of the metropolis was centered in the absence of all ornament. In 1910, a public furor spawned by the simplicity of the modernistic design resulted in a municipal order to suspend work; construction ceased and building permits were denied. Adolf Loos responded to the attacks in a public meeting attended by more than 2000 angry residents. The controversy ended with an agreement to add window boxes in an attempt to countrify and familiarize the unpopular design.

Adolf Loos 's private residential works were characterized by unembellished white facades. As a result, these buildings have routinely been associated with the work of Le Corbusier, J. J. Oud, and others. Among the more famous were the much published Steiner House (1910) and Scheu House (1912), both in Vienna. One of Adolf Loos 's best known projects was the entry for the Chicago Tribune Tower competition of 1922. Adolf Loos 's surprising combination of Doric columns at ground level with modern skyscraper technology indicated that Adolf Loos was less doctrinaire about ornament than his modernist colleagues believed. To Adolf Loos, the polished black granite columns, durable classical symbols in a building, were altogether useful and therefore beautiful.

Also in 1922, Adolf Loos was appointed to the post of Chief Architect of the Housing Department of the Commune of Vienna. His projects during this time were primarily con structions modulated around simply-composed layouts utilizing basic construction technology. Flexible interior arrangements were achieved through the use of movable partitions. Exteriors were typical of suburban housing Vegetable gardens, which were considered essential extensions of the dwellings, were assigned high priorities. Adolf Loos soon grew disillusioned with his work as chief architect. As a result of his opposition to the then current ideology of Austrian Marxism, Adolf Loos resigned from his post the same year Adolf Loos was appointed.

Adolf Loos moved to France in 1922. Adolf Loos lived there until 1927, dividing his time between Paris and the Rivier with frequent journeys to Austria, Germany and Czechoslovakia. Adolf Loos was received enthusiastically by the French avantgarde. His work entitled "Ornament and Crime" was translated in 1920 in Esprit Nouveau, a publication edited by Le Corbusier, Paul Dermee, and Ozenfant. Adolf Loos also exhibited regularly at d'Automne, and became the first foreigner to be elected to its jury. Adolf Loos built some of his most significant works during this period. These included The Tzara House in Paris (1926-1927), Villa Moller in Vienna (1928), Villa Muller (1930), Villa Winternitz in Prague (1931-1932) and the Khuner Country House at Payerbach in lower Austria. Monolithic in nature, these works contrasted greatly with the glass architecture that dominated rationalist styles of the 1920s. Once again, Adolf Loos as in a posture of contentious indifference to fluctuations in current taste.

In 1930, on his sixtieth birthday, Adolf Loos was officially recognized as a master of architecture. Adolf Loos was bestowed with an annual honorific income by the president of the Czechoslovakian Republic. His collected essays were published the following year. Adolf Loos died on August 23, 1933 and was buried beneath a simple tombstone of his own design. His most significant contribution to architecture remains his literary discourse.

Major works:
Cafe Museum, at Vienna, Austria, 1898 to 1899.
Wohnung Leopold Langer, at Vienna, Austria, 1901.
Villa Karma, Clarens, at Montreux, Switzerland, 1904 to 1906.
Wohnung Rudolf Kraus, at Vienna, Austria, 1907.
Schmuckfedern-gesch ft Sigmund Steiner, at Vienna, Austria, 1907.
American Bar, at Vienna, Austria, 1907.
Wohnung Bellak, at Vienna, Austria, 1907.
Schneidersalon Knize, Vienna, Austria, 1909 - 1913.
House on the Michaelerplatz, at Vienna, Austria, 1910 to 1911.
Steiner House, at Vienna, Austria, 1910.
Scheu House, Vienna, at Austria, 1912 to 1913.
Horner House, at Vienna, Austria, 1921.
Rufer House, at Vienna, Austria, 1922.
Villa Stross, at Vienna, Austria, 1922.
Landhaus Spanner, at Gumpoldskirchen, Austria, 1923.
Big shop (project), at Alexandria, Egypt, 1924.
Tristan Tzara House, at Paris, France, 1926 to 1927.
Moller House, Vienna, at Austria, 1927 to 1928.
Wohnung Hans Brummel, at Vienna, Austria, 1929.
Wohnung Willy Hirsch, at Pilsen, Czech Republic, 1929.
Khuner Villa, at on the Kreuzberg, Payerback, Austria, 1930.
Villa Muller, Prague, Czech Republic, 1930.
Wohnung Leo Brummel, at Vienna, Austria, 1930.
Muller House, at Prague, Czech Republic, 1930.
Landhaus Khuner, Payerbach, Austria, 1930.
Bojko House, at Vienna, Austria, 1929 to 1930.
Mitzi House, at Vienna, Austria, 1931.
House in the Vienna Werbund, Austria, 1930 to 1932.
Semler House, at Pilsen, Czech Republic, 1932.

Some books about Adolf Loos

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