Adolf Loos (10 December 1870 – 23 August 1933) was a Moravian-born Austrian architect. He was influential in European Modern architecture, in his essay Ornament and Crime he repudiated the florid style of the Vienna Secession, the Austrian version of Art Nouveau. In this and many other essays he contributed to the elaboration of a body of theory and criticism of Modernism in architecture.
Born in 1870 in Bruenn (Brno), Moravia, to an ethnically German family, Loos was only nine when his stonemason father died. Completed Technical school in Liberec, Czech Republic, now Technical University Liberec (a plaque located in front of Pavillion H commemorates this) and later studied at Dresden Technical University before moving to Vienna. Contracting syphilis in the brothels of Vienna, by 21 he was sterile and in 1893 his mother disowned him. He stayed in America for three years, he had an uncle living in Philadelphia, he visited the 1893 Columbian Exposition in Chicago, appreciated the work of Louis Sullivan, visited St. Louis and did odd jobs in New York. He somehow found himself in that process and returned to Vienna in 1896 a man of taste and intellectual refinement, immediately entering the Viennese intelligentsia. His friends subsequently included Ludwig Wittgenstein, Arnold Schönberg, Peter Altenberg and Karl Kraus. He quickly established himself as the preferred architect of Vienna’s cultured bourgeoisie. Diagnosed with cancer in 1918, his stomach, appendix and part of his intestine were removed. For the rest of his life he could only digest ham and cream. He had several unhappy marriages. By the time he was fifty he was almost completely deaf; in 1928 he was disgraced by a paedophilia scandal and at his death in 1933 at 62 he was penniless. He died in Kalksburg near Vienna.
To understand fully Loos’s radical, innovative outlook on life, his admiration for the classical tradition, his passion for all aspects of design, lifestyle and taste, and the breadth of his ideas, it is essential to read his own collected writings, which were published by MIT press in English as “Spoken into the Void” in 1982.
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.
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