Ornament and crime, Adolf Loos, 1908

The main thoughts:

Make the walls around the living space, not otherwise. The planning of a house must start with understanding what people will do inside, how they will use each place. Some architects first do the house planning, and only then do they decide how people will live inside the house. After panning the outer walls, they decide where and how the bedroom, bath, living room, and kitchen will be located. An example is when a person wants to have three floors, or 600 square meter area, and he thinks afterward how to fill the place.

For me, that was a crucial thought. Did you think an architect should plan walls, windows, stairs only after planning the people’s behavior inside the house? I guess it is tough to imagine. Most of us buy or rent an apartment, and we initially have the plan of an apartment, and based on this plan, we make the walls between rooms and place the tables, sofas, beds, and other furniture. But when you build your own house, you must think conversely! Remember!

Vienna is a Potemkin village. Potemkin village is the name of fake houses, where only a façade is made. Potemkin villages were built in Russian Empire when the emperor traveled around different regions. Mayor Potemkin did not want the emperor to see poor villages, and he decided to build fake houses on the main streets so that the emperor would see the flourishing city. The homes had only one wall and were constructed out of wood, were colored, and had ornaments made of gypsum.

Vienna has a similar thing. Houses in Vienna look gorgeous; however, most of the façade is just a cheap decoration made of gypsum instead of stone, which doesn’t have any functions.

Without the Façade, the house of the 15th and 17th centuries will look the same as that of the 19th century. For a long time, the only difference in homes was the Façade style: baroque, classicism, modern, neo-gothic, etc.

You can’t fake one material for a more expensive one. The fake will always be seen. In Vienna, architects usually make hardwood out of a soft one or paint the normal wood to the red transparent color to look like the teak wood (red hardwood, very expensive).

There were no prohibitions of fake architecture because no one was faking before. If there are no robbers, you don’t need any punishment for robbery. Nobody was faking the architecture styles before. Only when the new cheap luxury-imitating materials became popular, the process of faking start to flourish.

Ornament is terrible, and once we will eliminate it. The Ornament is just the time spent for nothing. People of baroque times (when people discovered purple color, just a fact) spent money on needless luxury things, and people became poorer. Still, people in the new era are conscious about our needs, and we understand that some wills are stupid. That is why we became richer.

Let’s take two persons having the same income and living simultaneously. One is a baroque person, and one is a modern person. The baroque person will eat the peacocks, pheasant, lobsters with silver spoons on a table made of teak wood with the picturesque ornaments. He will probably wear clothes made of silk, covered with gold, purple color. He will have diamond rings and other stuff. The modern person (of the 20th century) will not have any ornament in his house, neither on the clothes, boots, or furniture. He will wear a black suit to not stand out from the crowd. His power is in his mind. Without spending money on luxury and Ornament, the modern person will save money and grow his capital not need to work in the future.

The modern person will work less. Workers of the previous era spent most of the time on decorations so that they had to work 20 hours per day to have the same production as a person of the modern age (20th century). Now people in America work 8 hours per day, and soon people will work 4 hours a day if they forget about all unnecessary details.

Some architects kill harmony with nature. A¬†peasant in¬†a¬†small village will build a¬†house without an¬†architect. If there is clay nearby, he will buy bricks; if not¬†‚Äď he will use wood and¬†stones from the¬†lake nearby. The¬†Peasant will ask the¬†carpenter (woodworker) to¬†make a¬†roof, and¬†he does not¬†know if the¬†roof will be beautiful or¬†ugly until it is built. Will the¬†house be beautiful? The¬†house will be as¬†beautiful as¬†a¬†lake, a¬†tree, or¬†a¬†horse. It will be a¬†part of¬†nature.

photos are taken from google and added to have a feeling of harmony with nature.

Architects can come to a place and draw the house as he or the customer imagines. He may use materials or technologies that are not usual for these places. The house may be great but may also kill nature. The house will take all the attention to itself. A peasant (subconsciously) understands that the house is a part of nature, and he will try to live in harmony as his ancestors lived.

Сity dwellers (urban citizens) don’t have a history. They have no sense of beauty and are not attached to one style. They live in a mix of everything.

The good architecture does not look nice in pictures. The architecture is not 2-dimensional, and a house is not built by pen. The architecture of Adolf Loos looks too simple on paper and photos but is great in real life. And you know why it is better? Look at other buildings built that time, look at the cafes of modern style with ornaments, that, of course, look great on paper, and where are they? Most of them are closed or have a new design because such architecture becomes not pretty even for the creator. In 3 years, the architect starts to hate his Ornament.

Someone may say that regular change of style, furniture, etc., is suitable for an economy because factories will produce more and more people will have jobs. Such logic exists. When the house is on fire, people are happy because a new, better building will be constructed in that place. But it is not ok, because it is just a capital loss for nothing.

Architecture is not art, except for monuments and gravestones. Everyone should like a House. But art is how an artist sees the world; you may like it or not. Art does not have a function (except for evoking emotions). However, the house satisfies the specific need. The picture should lead out of the usual comfort. The house should serve this comfort. The art is revolutionary; the house is conservative. Art opens new ways and thinks about the future. The house thinks about presents. A person likes everything that serves comfort and hates everything that leads out of it. So, he likes a house and hates art. And yes, architecture is not art. Unfortunately, today (20th century), most houses are liked by two people: the architect and a developer (a private home customer).

Adolf Loos is Austria‚Äôs most known architect of¬†the¬†early 20th century. His two masterpieces are the¬†Loos Haus and¬†Caf√© ‚ÄúMuseum.‚ÄĚ

Loos Haus, now here is the Raiffeisenbank.
Café Museum (I took photos from google)

Adolf Loos has written two best-seller books: ‚ÄúOrnament and¬†crime‚ÄĚ and¬†‚ÄúWhy A¬†Man Should Be Well-dressed.‚ÄĚ

In this article, I summarized the thoughts of Adolf loos and the thoughts that I experienced reading this book. If you liked this format, I would continue writing such articles. I have great books in my home library that I will be happy to talk about, and I also know tens of great books about architecture and urban planning. Just write a comment or write a private message. I will be very grateful.

2022   Architecture   Austria   Books