Do You Like Modern Architecture?
You can thank Adolf Franz Karl Viktor Maria Loos (December 10, 1870 – August 23, 1933).
Adolf Loos was an Austrian and Czech architect and influential European theorist of modern architecture. His essay Ornament and Crime advocated smooth and clear surfaces in contrast to the lavish decorations of the fin de siècle and also to the more modern aesthetic principles of the Vienna Secession, exemplified in his design of Looshaus, Vienna. Loos became a pioneer of modern architecture and contributed a body of theory and criticism of Modernism in architecture and design and developed the “Raumplan” (literally spatial plan) method of arranging interior spaces, exemplified in Villa Müller in Prague.
At age 23, Loos traveled to the United States and stayed there for three years from 1893–96. While in the United States, he mainly lived with relatives in the Philadelphia area, supported himself with odd jobs and also visited other cities such as the World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago, St. Louis and New York. Loos returned to Vienna in 1896 and made it his permanent residence. He was a prominent figure in the city and a friend of Ludwig Wittgenstein, Arnold Schönberg, Peter Altenberg and Karl Kraus.
Inspired by his years in the New World he devoted himself to architecture. After briefly associating himself with the Vienna Secession in 1896, he rejected the style and advocated a new, plain, unadorned architecture. A utilitarian approach to use the entire floor plan completed his concept. Loos’s early commissions consisted of interior designs for shops and cafés in Vienna.
Modern architecture is a group of styles of architecture which emerged in the first half of the 20th century and became dominant after World War II. It was based upon new technologies of construction, particularly the use of glass, steel and reinforced concrete; and upon a rejection of the traditional neoclassical architecture and Beaux-Arts styles that were popular in the 19th century. They also rejected embellishments.
Modern architecture continued to be the dominant architectural style for institutional and corporate buildings into 1980s, when it was largely deposed by postmodernism.
Notable architects important to the history and development of the modernist movement include Frank Lloyd Wright, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, Le Corbusier, Walter Gropius, Konstantin Melnikov, Erich Mendelsohn, Richard Neutra, Louis Sullivan, Gerrit Rietveld, Bruno Taut, Gunnar Asplund, Arne Jacobsen, Oscar Niemeyer and Alvar Aalto.
Adolf Loos’ lamentation Ornament and Crime made a lasting impression on le Corbusier and Mies van der Rohe and left behind a body of attractive commercial and domestic work blending simplicity and great material warmth.
As noted by The Australian in the article Looking at Adolf Loos, modern architecture as it evolved through the middle decades of the 20th century, might have been better – more individualistic, humanistic and warmer in tone – if it had been more deeply attuned to the quirky legacy of Adolf Loos than the rigidities of Bauhaus-inspired internationalism. If Adolf Loos is our contemporary, it is not before time.
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