Sunday, 17 February 2013

Adolf Loos

This extraordinary and idiosyncratic figure is wonderfully captured in his last wife's memoir, 'A Portrait' by Claire Beck Moos, which I read this afternoon. This small book is a bit expensive but beautifully made (the binding, so subtle, is bi-coloured) and has such a light touch in the text as to make you love Loos almost as much as she did. It is a gem. The times are distant, but the concerns oddly real, and more to the point, almost completely the opposite of those espoused by the famous architects of the time. I hear there is still an architect who works solely from a bar stool in Vienna, and Loo's story reminds me of my old friend Gordon MacLean, who did much the same in Soho.
Loos maxim, that it was the primary job of the architect to provide the carpets, then continue them up the walls, and maybe over the ceilings, and then as a secondary task to work out how to keep them there flies in the face of the canonical history of European modernism. There is total intuition as to planning, but there is no truth to materials, there is just a liking for particular materials, understanding the cost of them, persuading the client they might love them too, and getting on with the builder who is installing them. There is the weathering, even enjoyment, of the trials of the building site by imagining the eventual result, such as a calming fish tank. There is extreme good taste. By the time this book was penned, Loos was nearly dead and poor but living in the best hotels as well as the cheapest, he was deaf from syphilis and despairing that his trunks of hand made clothes were infested by moths, and loving dogs and other creatures, and his wife shows wonderfully his irrascable nature and a particular humour in the face of almost terminal defeat. A lovely book.

No comments:

Post a Comment