Adolf Loos, Vienna 1900
& Austrian Modern Architecture, Part II

By no means was Adolf Loos a revolutionary: Despite of being a purist regarding modern architecture, he was a keen defender of genuinely historic buildings. He viciously criticised the Imperial madness expressed in the demolition of entire blocks of Baroque buildings at and around the Ringstraße. He himself saw his work as a continuation of traditional Viennese styles based on ancestors like Josef Kornhäusl, a Biedermeier architect who designed the main synagogue and many buildings in Baden.

Adolf Loos & his "Scandalous" Houses

His architectural work is mostly concerned with private villas for industrialists and other "winners" of the Gründerzeit boom. They often resemble the style of architectural cubism. In 1910, Adolf Loos′ most important Viennese building was erected, the "Loos Haus" on the Michaelerplatz right next to the Hofburg Palace. Its plain façade covered in green stone with no shutters, mantle stones or other ornaments made the Viennese condemn it as a "house with no eyebrows".

It caused such a scandal that the general public demanded its demolition and even Emperor Franz Joseph I refused to enter the Hofburg from the Michaelerplatz ever again. Today, the fuzz is not really understandable, as the building doesn′t look that unusual (I find the Starbucks to its opposite much worse). The man who had commissioned Loos for the job, a Jewish banker named Goldmann, didn′t give a damn about the criticism and hired Loos for designing his private house right away.

Beyond that, Loos continued to be tremendously popular as a designer for interiors. He was responsible for the interiors of the recently refurbished "Café Museum" on the Karlsplatz Square (also called "Café Nihilism" by the Viennese, who again disliked the plain designs) and the first American-style bar of Vienna, appropriately called "American Bar" in the Kärntner Straße (still in its original shape and worth a visit).

Interiors & later Work by Adolf Loos

For private rooms, Loos style was influenced by the styles of rustic American and English interiors - I am not a big fan of his interpretation of these styles. For a classic example, go to the Wien Museum at Karlsplatz Square, where Adolf Loos private living room is part of the exhibition on the Wiener Moderne.

In the 1920ies, Adolf Loos lived primarily in Paris, where he designed various villas. One of his most famous buildings is the Müller Villa in Praque ("Müllerova vila"), which is now a museum. Today, Adolf Loos′ work is regarded to be a bit of a side-line in the history of architecture, but by no means is he a dead end. His style and his understanding of the role of an architect influenced generations of Austrian architects that followed.

A quantification on this matter, however, is difficult, since the Bauhaus school and other influential modern styles that Loos was not part of (or even criticised) followed similar principles of functionality, lack of decoration and linearity. As a proper Austrian intellectual, Loos was married a couple of times before he died in 1933.

Return to: "Adolf Loos - Part II"

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Further Reading

Wikipedia on Adolf Loos

Wikipedia on the Wiener Moderne

Introduction to the Wiener Moderne