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Adolf Loos (10 December 1870 – 23 August 1933) was one of the most important and influential Austrianmarker and Czechoslovak architects of European Modern architecture. In his essay Ornament and Crime he repudiated the florid style of the Vienna Secessionmarker, 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 Brnomarker, Moravia, Loos was only nine when his stonemason father died. A rebellious boy who rather lost his bearings, he failed in various attempts to get through architecture school. Contracting syphilis in the brothels of Vienna, by 21 he was sterile and in 1893 his mother disowned him. He went to America for three years, and did odd jobs in New York, somehow finding himself in that process and returning to Vienna in 1896 a man of taste and intellectual refinement, immediately entering the fashionable Viennese intelligentsia. His friends 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 Kalksburgmarker near Viennamarker.

Architectural theory

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 Secessionmarker, the Austrian version of Art Nouveau.

In this essay, he explored the idea that the progress of culture is associated with the deletion of ornament from everyday objects, and that it was therefore a crime to force craftsmen or builders to waste their time on ornamentation that served to hasten the time when an object would become obsolete. Perhaps surprisingly, Loos' own architectural work is often elaborately decorated. The visual distinction is not between complicated versus plain, but between "organic" and superfluous decoration.

Loos was also interested in the decorative arts, collecting sterling silver and high quality leather goods, which he noted for their plain yet luxurious appeal. He also enjoyed fashion and men's clothing, designing the famed Knize of Vienna, a haberdashery.

Major works

Looshaus in Michaelerplatz, Vienna.
  • 1899 Café Museum, Vienna
  • 1908 American Bar, Vienna
  • 1910 Steiner House, Vienna
  • 1910 Goldman & Salatsch Building, a mixed-use building overlooking Michaelerplatz, Vienna (known colloquially as the "Looshaus")
  • 1922 Rufer House, Vienna
  • 1925 Maison Tzara, house and studio for Tristan Tzara, one of the founders of Dadaism, in Montmartremarker, Parismarker, GIS coordinates: +48.888146, +2.335500
  • 1926 Villa Moller, Vienna
  • 1927 House (not built) in Paris for the American entertainer Josephine Baker
  • 1928 Villa Müllermarker, Praguemarker (now in the Czech Republicmarker)
  • 1929 Khuner Villa, Kreuzberg, Austria




  • Oechslin, Werner, "Stilhülse und Kern : Otto Wagner, Adolf Loos und der evolutionäre Weg zur modernen Architektur", Zuerich 1994.

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