The exhibition, curated by Pilar Parcerisas, focuses on the work of Loos (1870-1933) as a designer of interiors and furniture who emphasised the dialogue between spaces in public life and private life. A central theme of the show is the aesthetic revolution that Loos led in Vienna at around the turn of the twentieth century, when he rebelled against Secession to champion economy in architectural construction and design.
Adolf Loos “Private Spaces”
December 14 – February 25, 2018
Barcelona Design Museum
Plaça de les Glòries Catalanes, 37, 08018 Barcelona
The show features more than 120 items of furniture, all either design or selected by Loos for his interior spaces between 1899 and 1931. This furniture is complemented by documentary material, including period photographs, lithographs, drawings, texts and plans of architectural projects, as well as models, both of works that were completed and others that never came to fruition. It is in these interiors that we find Adolf Loos at his most revolutionary. The apartment is the private sphere, the individual’s refuge from social life. His emphasis on such values as intimacy, privacy and comfort make Loos’s design of private spaces and use of domestic furnishings an example of new approaches to the culture of the habitat.
The exhibition is a co-production by the Museu del Disseny de Barcelona and ”la Caixa” Foundation. The works are on loan from nine collections: The Albertina Museum (Vienna), the Wien Museum, the Architekturmuseum der Technischen Universität (Munich), the Julius Hummel Collection (Vienna), the Markus Kristan Collection (Vienna), the Ernst Poil Collection (Vienna), J. & L. Lobmeyr (Vienna), CCCB (Barcelona) and a private collection in the UK.
Adolf Loos produced a response, through architecture and design, to the ethical and aesthetic crisis that affected fin-de-siècle Vienna society. Thehistoricist, ornamental façades on the Ringstrasse, promoted by the decadent Habsburg monarchy, became the skin that separated the theatrical sphere of public life from the degenerate reality of private life. On his return from the United States, Loos introduced Anglo-American culture through his articles in the press and the magazine Das Andere (1903), in which he questioned customs and the use of everyday objects.
Loos rebelled against his Secession and Wiener Werkstätte contemporaries, who sought to turn life into art, taking abstract elements from nature as their models. He took the Vienna of Otto Wagner and the Secession as the startingpoint to radicalise his anti-ornamental stance, which he defended in his famous lecture Ornament and Crime (1908). The designer and architect took a critical look at bourgeois interior spaces, full of decorative but useless objects, and set himself the task of creating places that would protect the individual’s privacy from the outside as a way of reconciling the split between the individual being and the social being.
Employing his Raumplan method, he created continuous vertical spaces establishing different heights according to use, while his employment of enfilade established the continuity of the space horizontally. According to Loos, the façade was the masculine face of architecture, the interior, its feminine side.
A journey through the interiors of private houses and commercial spaces designed by Adolf Loos, illustrated by photographs from the period and the furniture that has been identified as such, takes us from the Café Museum (1899) to Villa Müller (1930-1931). The features on this journey include both the furniture that he designed personally and existing models that he chose to use for their comfort and functionality. According to Loos, the architect is concerned with the building, the craftsman with the furniture. He never used less functional “modern” furnishings. An admirer of English furniture, he favoured the Chippendale style, Hepplewhite, Hampton & Sons’ New Shaped Easy Chair, and wickerwork chairs. He used Liberty chairs, Biedermeier armchairs and Chesterfield sofas, Turkish-influenced tables, Egyptian stools and oriental rugs. Various ensembles of furniture demonstrate his eclectic taste and postmodern gaze.
The exhibition illustrates all these aspects of Loos’ work through drawings, plans, photographs, models and furniture. While the show highlights, above all, his interiors, it also closes with a section devoted to exteriors, minimalist façades and unrealised projects, including the Chicago Tribune Column (1922), a black granite skyscraper in the shape of a Doric column that became a key reference for postmodern architecture.