Adolf Loos: Ornament and Crime

This week I’ve read Adolf Loos’s Ornament and Crime which is perhaps his most controversial article. Adolf Loos is an important architect who was centered in Austria in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. His minimalist attitudes effected the works of Le Corbusier, Mies van der Rohe and many more modernists. He planted the main ideas of Bauhaus. His ideas were in sharp contrast with the traditional Viennese design. He was against the “excessive” use of ornamentations like such in Art Nouveau. He was not actually criticizing the use of ornaments in older times and styles but he was questioning why it had to continue still, without any change while the time was changing.

I think the article had quite a political side too because we can sense the ideas behind Loos’s strong rejections apart from “not liking ornaments”. He states that ornaments are also used to seperate people from each other according to their stratum. (Which was an idea that can be traced to the excitement of the newly spread socialist ideology in Europe at that time.) And there was an industry that required ornaments to keep the economy alive because ornaments can go out of style in a short time and that only means: new ornaments! People took his declaration very badly, especially, people from higher classes. Because not using ornaments was a mortification for them. How could they not be able to use something that was being used for decades, even by the least civilized societies?

About ornament being a crime, Adolf Loos’s concern was more ethical than aesthetic. He thought ornamentation was a crime because it was delaying the evolution of human kind which requires the rid of ornaments. It was an unethical thing to delay this evolution and it harmed society therefore, Loos was thinking of a rather social crime.


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