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Adolf Loos: The Art of Architecture

Adolf Loos: The Art of Architecture
Joseph Masheck

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Widely regarded as one of the most significant prophets of modern architecture, Adolf Loos was a star in his own time. His work was emblematic of the turn-of-the-century generation that was torn between the traditional culture of the nineteenth century and the innovative modernism of the twentieth. His essay 'Ornament and Crime' equated superfluous ornament and 'decorative arts' with underclass tattooing in an attempt to tell modern Europeans that they should know better. But the negation of ornament was supposed to reveal, not negate, good style; and an incorrigible ironist has been taken too literally in denying architecture as a fine art. Without normalizing his edgy radicality, Masheck argues that Loos's masterful "astylistic architecture" was an appreciation of tradition and utility and not, as most architectural historians have argued, a mere repudiation of the florid style of the Vienna Secession. Masheck has reads Loos as a witty, ironic rhetorician who has all too often been taken at face value. Far from being the anti-architect of the modern era, Masheck's Loos is 'an unruly yet integrally canonical artist-architect'.

He believed in culture, comfort, intimacy and privacy and advocated the evolution of artful architecture. This is a brilliantly written revisionist reading of a perennially popular architect.

Table of Contents

Chapter 1 | Loos and Fine Art                
Chapter 2 | Loosian Vernacular: An American Case          
Chapter 3 | Loos and Imperial New York               
Chapter 4 | Critique of Ornament                                 
Chapter 5 | Architecture and Ornament in Fact         
Chapter 6 | Everybody’s Doric      
Chapter 7 | Architecturelessness and Sustainable Art                     
Chapter 8 | The Wittgenstein House as Loosian          
Chapter 9 | Loos and Minimalism

Author Info

Joseph Masheck, Professor of Art History at Hofstra University, in Hempstead, New York, was editor-in-chief of Artforum in the late 1970s. He has been a Guggenheim Fellow and, in 2006-10, Centenary Fellow of Edinburgh College of Art. Previous books include Building-Art: Modern Architecture Under Cultural Construction (Cambridge University Press, 1993) and Marcel Duchamp in Perspective, 2nd edn (Da Capo, 2002).


‘The last word on Loos and his intellectual roots. Readers will gain an intricate knowledge of all the European and American influences on his work as well as a sweep through Viennese turn-of-the-century, philosophical and artistic thought.’
Colin Amery, Burlington Magazine

'Masheck's corrective, his doggedness in emphasizing Loos’s striving to make architecture that was indeed architecture is an important and necessary effort. Too long have scholars and critics viewed Loos through a simple and reductive lens.'
Can Bilsel, Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians

'Joseph Masheck is the most imaginative art critic of his generation, one of the few art writers of any time or place whose work should and will be taken seriously by anyone interested in highly original writing.'
David Carrier, professor of philosophy at Carnegie Mellon University and author of Artwriting and Principles of Art History Writing

‘A monumental contribution to the Loos literature – ambitiously conceived, thoroughly provocative, and deeply insightful.’
Joan Ockman, Distinguished Senior Fellow, School of Design, University of Pennsylvania

‘Masheck ... also ... demonstrates … how [Loos’s] abstract approach to form anticipated in a specific way the discourse of American minimalist art.’
Kenneth Frampton, Ware Professor of Architecture, Columbia University

‘A provocative take on Adolf Loos at a time when criticism has exhausted its theoretical resources, and the near past seems almost out of reach.’
Gevork Hartoonian, Professor of Architecture, University of Canberra

‘This penetrating book ... guide[s] us round the paradoxes of this dandified enemy of ornamental invention whose most prominent masterpiece is a bronze and- marble colonnaded gentlemen’s outfitter!’
Joseph Rykwert, Cret Professor of Architecture Emeritus, University of Pennsylvania


Adolf Loos, Art & Artlessness Read

Bibliographic Info

Imprint: I.B.Tauris
Publisher: I.B.Tauris & Co Ltd.

ISBN: 9781780764238
Publication Date: 30 Mar 2013
Number of Pages: 320
Height: 234
Width: 156
Illustrations: 52 bw integrated

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