One has just been sent out as a biblical dove, has found nothing green, and slips back
into the darkness of the ark -- Kafka

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Adolf Loos: Ornament Is a Crime

Ornament and Crime is an essay written in 1908 by the influential and self-consciously "modern" Austrian architect Adolf Loos under the German title Ornament und Verbrechen. It was under this challenging title that in 1913 the essay was translated into English: "The evolution of culture marches with the elimination of ornament from useful objects", Loos proclaimed, linking the optimistic sense of the linear and upward progress of cultures with the contemporary vogue for applying evolution to cultural contexts.[citation needed]

In Loos's essay, "passion for smooth and precious surfaces"[1] he explains his philosophy, describing how ornamentation can have the effect of causing objects to go out of style and thus become obsolete. It struck him that it was a crime to waste the effort needed to add ornamentation, when the ornamentation would cause the object to soon go out of style. Loos introduced a sense of the "immorality" of ornament, describing it as "degenerate", its suppression as necessary for regulating modern society. He took as one of his examples the tattooing of the "Papuan" and the intense surface decorations of the objects about him—Loos considered the Papuan not to have evolved to the moral and civilized circumstances of modern man, who, should he tattoo himself, would either be considered a criminal or a degenerate.[2]

The essay was written when Art Nouveau, which Loos had excoriated even at its height in 1900, was about to show a new way of modern art. The essay is important in articulating some moralizing views, inherited from the Arts and Crafts movement, which would be fundamental to the Bauhaus design studio and would help define the ideology of Modernism in architecture.

[From Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ornament_and_Crime]
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