Adolf Loos  

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All art is erotic. The first ornament that was born, the cross, was erotic in origin. The first work of art, the first artistic act which the first artist, in order to rid himself of his surplus energy, smeared on the wall. A horizontal dash: the prone woman. A vertical dash: the man penetrating her.” --Ornament and Crime, 1910, Adolf Loos

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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel

Adolf Loos (December 10, 1870 in Brno, MoraviaAugust 8, 1933 in Vienna, Austria) was an early-20th century Viennese architect, noted for one particular essay/manifesto entitled Ornament and Crime.


Architectural theory

In his essays, Loos was fond of using the provocative catch phrase and has become noted for one particular essay/manifesto entitled Ornament and Crime written in 1908, in which he repudiated the florid style of the Vienna Secession, the Austrian version of Art Nouveau.

In this essay, he explored the idea that the progress of culture is associated with the deletion of ornament from everyday objects, and that it was therefore a crime to force craftsmen or builders to waste their time on ornamentation that served to hasten the time when an object would become obsolete. Perhaps surprisingly, Loos' own architectural work is often elaborately decorated. The visual distinction is not between complicated versus plain, but between "organic" and superfluous decoration.

Loos was also interested in the decorative arts, collecting sterling silver and high quality leather goods, which he noted for their plain yet luxurious appeal. He also enjoyed fashion and men's clothing, designing the famed Knize of Vienna, a haberdashery.

Loos is known for his entry to the 1922 Chicago Tribune competition, which took the form of a single colossal Doric column. But it was in the field of private houses that he most completely developed his unique spatial language.

Major works

Architectural work

Loos' work, although varied in style, is most known for a period of houses of highly stereometric form and white color. The exteriors were greatly simplified in ornament. The interiors were, constrastingly, highly complex spatially and materially luxurious.


See also

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