A few weeks ago we had a lecture on a quite well-known modernist architect with the name Adolf Loos. He was in fact one of Le Corbusier’s sources for inspiration, mainly because of his famous saying “ornament is a crime” and his texts on this matter. Le Corbusier took the removal of ornament a step further than Loos did, below is a picture of a pub by Loos, and the interior clearly contradict this “no ornament” policy, which is interesting.
My studio is 50/50 interior designers and architects, and there is a focus on designing the building from the inside out – starting with organizing spaces, designing the spaces and then let the exterior be of “secondary” importance. Even though I might not agree on this a 100 % – i believe that the exterior, the face to the public, of a building is of at least the same importance as the interior – I try and take these projects as resources to get to know the whole building in depth.
The organization of rooms and their relation to each other is key aspects of Loos’s work. He says about his design that “My architecture is not conceived in plans, but in spaces (cubes). I do not design floor plans, facades, sections. I design spaces.”
And this is evident. Below are some images from his Müller house in Prague, a very complex house in terms of spatial arrangements, and indeed hard to get a grip of without looking at drawings and pictures over and over again.
The picture above is taken from the living room looking towards a dining room on the left hand side (picture below shows the dining room). To get to the dining room you have to climb a short staircase. On the right hands side of the image there is also a staircase (the two images above shows this staircase), taking you up to, as far as I know, a “gentlemen’s retreat” (I made that up, but it is a small room for the men to sit and smoke and relax). Only from these two pictures, you can see how staircases takes one to different levels, and that all these levels are different because something else is going on either above or below; the different rooms have different ceiling heights based on their “importance” – the dining room will be higher than the kitchen and so on. Again, these rooms do not look like they were designed by a man who believed that ornament was a crime. But what Loos so elegantly does, is to use the purity and uniqueness of the individual material as decoration, rather than designing the building and then design the decor.
Now, to design a house where almost all the rooms are leveled differently requires the architect to constantly look at the project in 3 dimensions and to think out of the box. However, this is the exterior:
The title of this post, a comment made by Loos, describes his facades spot on. It is hard to say whether this simplicity of the envelop is a good thing or not – imagine 10 of these buildings sitting next to each other and you would probably die of boredom. On the other hand, what is intriguing about his facades is the placing windows. Where there is a window, there is a room that requires light. One can almost read the pattern of the windows and tell what is going on on the inside.