Saturday, April 21, 2007


"Ornament and Crime is an essay written by the influential and self-consciously "modern" Austrian architect Adolf Loos under the German title Ornament und Verbrechen in 1908. It was translated into English in 1913, under its challenging title. "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."

"In the essay, Loos' "passion for smooth and precious surfaces" informs his expressed philosophy that 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 considers 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."

Sadly, Loos seemed to have little understanding of craftsmanship or the nature of artistic expression. When we make something, we are not just making an object, we are re-creating ourselves through a process of learning and growth. That may involve the exploration of the clean lines of modernity or the exploration of texture and adornment.

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous5:19 AM

    One of the saddest things about movements like the one Loos represents is that there's no heart, no expression of the artisan's soul. Actually, no artisan, just a factory view of the world. I would rather see something quirky, something imperfect, less shiny and smooth.