Widely regarded as one of the most significant prophets of modern architecture, Adolf Loos was a star in his own time. His work was emblematic of the turn-of-the-century generation that was torn between the traditional culture of the nineteenth century and the innovative modernism of the twentieth. His essay 'Ornament and Crime' equated superfluous ornament and 'decorative arts' with underclass tattooing in an attempt to tell modern Europeans that they should know better. But the negation of ornament was supposed to reveal, not negate, good style; and an incorrigible ironist has been taken too literally in denying architecture as a fine art. Without normalizing his edgy radicality, Masheck argues that Loos's masterful "astylistic architecture" was an appreciation of tradition and utility and not, as most architectural historians have argued, a mere repudiation of the florid style of the Vienna Secession. Masheck has reads Loos as a witty, ironic rhetorician who has all too often been taken at face value. Far from being the anti-architect of the modern era, Masheck's Loos is 'an unruly yet integrally canonical artist-architect'.
He believed in culture, comfort, intimacy and privacy and advocated the evolution of artful architecture. This is a brilliantly written revisionist reading of a perennially popular architect.
Joseph Masheck, Professor of Art History at Hofstra University, in Hempstead, New York, was editor-in-chief of Artforum in the late 1970s. He has been a Guggenheim Fellow and, in 2006-10, Centenary Fellow of Edinburgh College of Art. Previous books include Building-Art: Modern Architecture Under Cultural Construction (Cambridge University Press, 1993) and Marcel Duchamp in Perspective, 2nd edn (Da Capo, 2002).
List of Illustrations Preface Acknowledgements Abbreviations 1. Loos and Fine Art 2. Loosian Vernacular: An American Case 3. Loos and Imperial New York 4. Critique of Ornament 5. Architecture and Ornament in Fact 6. Everybody's Doric 7. Architecturelessness and Sustainable Art 8. The Wittgenstein House as Loosian 9. Loos and Minimalism Notes Works cited Index