Term Paper: Adolf Loos

Pages: 8 (2176 words)  ·  Style: Chicago  ·  Bibliography Sources: 10  ·  Topic: Architecture  ·  Buy This Paper

Adolf Loos (1870-1933) is considered by many to be one of the foremost pioneers and inventive spirits in modern architecture. His reputation is based largely on a number of controversial and creative essays that include views on architectural theory and praxis. The buildings that he constructed and envisaged were, "....rigorous examples of austere beauty, ranging from conventional country cottages to planar compositions for storefronts and residences" (Adolf Loos: architect biography).

This paper will explore his theories and central architectural thesis and examine their importance in terms of the dominant architectural movements of the time, as well as their influence on contemporary architecture. Account will also be taken of the critiques of his views and theories.

Loos began his architectural studies at the Royal and Imperial State Technical College in Rechenberg, Bohemia. After spending a year in the army, he then attended the College of Technology in Dresden for three years

While a student, Loos was influenced by the classical works of Schinkel as well as the works of Vitruvius. One of the strongest influences on his development in terms of architectural theory and praxis was the United States.

He was impressed by the energy and modern ideas during his three-year visit to the United States between 1893 and 1896. "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." He particularly admired the work of Louis Sullivan.

In 1896, Adolf Loos returned to Vienna where he began working in the building firm of Carl Mayreder. (Adolf Loos: architect biography).In 1898, Loos opened his own practice in Vienna and met many of the thinkers and artists of the time, including Wittgenstein, and the composer Arnold Schnberg.

Among his most famous buildings are the Steiner House, Vienna (1910); Goldman and Salatsch Building, Vienna (1910); the Villa Muller, Prague (1928) and Khuner Villa, Kreuzberg, Austria, 1929. Central to this style were building with straight lines as well as clean curves and clear planar walls and windows (Adolf Loos, Vienna's Modernist Architect). He is also well-known for his Raumplan or "plan of volumes," which is defined as a "...system of contiguous, merging spaces Each room on a different level, with floors and ceilings set at different heights" (Adolf Loos, Vienna's Modernist Architect). Loos also started his own school of architecture and had many famous students, including

Richard Neutra and R.M. Schindler (Adolf Loos, Vienna's Modernist Architect).

2. Central theoretical concerns cardinal aspect of his view of architecture was that Loos reacted strongly against the decorative aspects of modern architecture. He stated that, "The evolution of culture marches with the elimination of ornament from useful objects" (ArtandCulture Artist: Adolf Loos). Therefore, Loos equated the development and progress of architecture with a reduction of extraneous ornamentation and decorative aspects. In particular, he objected to the Art Nouveau movement, which placed emphasis on the decorative aspects at the expense of the classical elements of architecture.

It is important to understand the connection that Loos saw between architecture, ornamentation and the moral and ethical values in architecture. "Loos wasn't merely frustrated by his fellow Austrians' apparent lack of taste; rather, he saw unnecessary ornamentation as a sign of moral weakness and as a concern for things irrelevant to true meaning in life" (ArtandCulture Artist: Adolf Loos). In other words, Loos saw the over-ornamentation and decorative aspects not only as a design issue but also in terms of the inner ethos and the philosophical meaning and value of architecture. Consequently, his view of architecture emphasizes clarity and practicality in design.

Loos is also referred to as one of the most 'didactic' of early modernist architects. He was firmly convinced that architecture shaped and influenced the way that people in society perceived reality. This also related to, "...how society understood the world and how individuals were supposed to behave in that world" (Gendered Design: Adolf Loos and the Changing Concept of "Woman"). This meant that the architect had a great responsibility towards the society in general and that the architect's works "....constituted nothing less than the moral compass by which a society lived" (Gendered Design: Adolf Loos and the Changing Concept of "Woman").

An aspect that also played in important role in his writings was the influence of modern industry and machinery. Loos was entranced by various types of modern machinery. The link between this fascination and his realistic theories of architecture were that machinery represented clarity and practicality of design that was not extraneous or 'ornamental." This ethos was to inform much of his theory. "Prefiguring Le Corbusier, Loos was fascinated by machinery; for Loos, bicycles and railway cars were unburdened by aesthetics or personality. Their beauty came from their ability to perform a service" (ArtandCulture Artist: Adolf Loos).

This view can be seen in the design aspects that he endorsed in architecture.

Straight lines, clear planar walls and windows, and clean curves characterized his style. As his theories developed, his conception of the raumplan, or plan of volumes, gradually evolved. The raumplan was a complex system of internal organization that in his split-level house designs.

ArtandCulture Artist: Adolf Loos).

Furthermore, in line with this view, Loos also believed that furnishing in the building should be functional and that they should be an integral and 'built in' feature of the design.

Essays and written works

As noted, Loss became famous for the extensive range and depth of his written materiel relating got architectural theiry and praxis. He wrote at least thirty-six different essays on the subject of ornament between 1897 and 1931. (Beauty, Ornament and Crime: Adolf Loos and Leon Battista Alberti on Ornament) central essay or manifesto that encapsulates much of Loos's approach to architecture is Ornament and Crime written in 1908, in which he repudiated the overly ornamental designs of Art Nouveau. This was also related to the progress and development of culture. In his view, culture progresses and improves in relation to the decrease of ornamentation. Loos stated that he considered it a "crime" or waste of time and design space and energy on decoration and ornamentation. (Adolf Loos)

Before the publication of this manifesto, Loos wrote a number of articles that were also to be influential. This refers to various polemical articles that were published in the Neue Freie Presse of Vienna in 1897. In these articles he does not only deal with architecture but, "...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: architect biography).

However, Ornament and Crime was to reveal his views about architecture. In this work, he expressed the view that the lack of ornamentation in architecture was a "...sign of spiritual strength" (Adolf Loos: architect biography). The assertion that decoration was a crime also refers to his view that extraneous design wasted labor as well as material in the modern world. The essay was to become a central document in the modernist movement and became accepted by important figures in modernism, such as Le Corbusier.

Loos also made the important point in his writings that the use of unnecessary and ornamental materials and design elements actually obscured the true nature and meaning of reality. In an essay entitled, "Principles of Building," (1998) Loos stated that "...the true vocabulary of architecture lies in the materials themselves, and that a building should remain "dumb" on the outside" (Adolf Loos: architect biography). In essence, he reduced architecture to a minimalist perspective, which stressed the simple interaction of materials in design and construction.

This view is contradicted to a certain extent by the difference between external and internal design in his theory and building. Loos explains this seeming ambiguity by stating that the houses or buildings should not be seen as a work of art but rather as a purely functional object. It is the interior of the house that can exhibit artistic and less functional objects. The distinction that he makes between art and functionality also relates to a criticism of his theory as being elitist. This refers to his view that houses were functional buildings that were meant for the masses, while art was meant for the few.

In term of the application of this theory, Loos designed a number of well-known buildings. He designed the Cafe Museum in 1899 and this was to be an indication of his practical and theoretical leanings. (ArtandCulture Artist: Adolf Loos) in line with his theory, this construction was stark and austere in its overall design and structure; for example, "...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" (ArtandCulture Artist: Adolf Loos).

In the period between 1909 and 1911, Loos designed and built one of his better known works - the Looshaus in the Michaelerplatz, in Vienna. True to his theoretical stance, the design of this construction was also stark and muted and there were no ornamental shapes on… [END OF PREVIEW]

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