LOOS, Adolf
(b. 1870, Brünn [now Brno], d. 1933, Kalksburg)

Biography

Austrian architect and applied arts designer. He attended the Staatsgewerbeschule in Reichenberg before he began his studies at the Technical College in Dresden. After this time, he spent three years in Philadelphia (U.S.A.), working various jobs. He returned to Europe in 1896 and settled down in Vienna.

In 1897, the Vienna Secession was founded. Loos established himself as a formidable critic of its fin-de-siècle culture, seen in the burgeoning Sezessionstil and the Gesamtkunstwerk ideal of such architects, as Josef Hoffmann and Joseph Maria Olbrich. In October 1897, Loos's radical polemic began to appear in Die Zeit and turned into a spate of articles in the following year, mainly in the Neue Freie Presse. These covered a wide range of subjects, including, in addition to architecture, furnishings, dress and music, on which Loos adopted a puritanical approach.

The radical defence of his theories and his article "Die Potemkinsche Stadt", published in the journal Ver Sacrum in the summer of 1898 in a very polemic manner, led to the final break with the leading architects of the Wiener Secession: Josef Hoffmann and Josef Maria Olbrich. At the same time, Loos developed an affinity for the underplayed styles emerging from the English Arts and Crafts movement, admiring the simplification of form and unadorned surfaces of the English domestic revival of the 1890s.

In 1920, he was appointed chief architect to the housing department of the city of Vienna, which was suffering from a chronic shortage of housing. He produced numerous housing projects in which he tried to break away from the conventional courtyard plan. In 1922, he moved to Paris, where he exerted a significant influence upon modern French architecture, in particular Le Corbusier (1887-1965. He gave lectures at the Sorbonne and constructed a house and atelier for the dadaist Tristan Tzara.

In 1928 Loos returned to Vienna, and in a series of houses built in Vienna and Prague towards the end of his career, he fully developed the Raumplan concept.

Major architectural works by Adolf Loos are the Café Museum, Vienna (1899); Villa Karma, Montreux (1904); American Bar, Vienna (1908); Looshaus, Vienna (1910); Steiner House, Vienna (1910); Rufer House, Vienna (1922); Tristan Tzara House, Paris (1925); residential interiors, Plzen.

Of some 30 articles written by Loos during 1904-14, undoubtedly the most influential was 'Ornament und Verbrechen' and 'Architektur'. The former, which equates human cultural development with the progressive shedding of ornament, is widely dated to 1908 and used to exemplify Loos's early influence in determining the character of Modernist architecture. In the latter, he advocated simplicity.