“Ornament and Crime”

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 Research about the passage and Adolf Loos

     ”  In 1908, the Austrian architect, designer, and theorist Adolf Loos published an incendiary treatise entitled “Ornament and Crime.” The essay equated the use of ornamentation in late nineteenth and early twentieth century architecture and design with the destruction of culture and society. Loos felt strongly that ornament had no meaning or place within contemporary culture, even going so far as to argue that ornament actually hindered society’s progress. Specifically, Loos viewed superfluous ornament as an epidemic, one that contributed to the obsolescence of objects. He advocated for simplicity, because simple objects never go out of style and therefore would be treasured for all time.

Even today, Loos’s questioning of the role of ornamentation still resonates within the architecture and the decorative arts communities. Academics, critics, students, artists, and curators regularly discuss and debate the topic, asking themselves such questions as: What purpose does ornament serve the design of an object? Is it simply a function of style? Does ornament contribute anything meaningful to objects today? “*

          “All of these reasons are suggested in architect Adolf Loos outrageous 1908 manifesto “Ornament and Crime,” an essay designed to infuriate fine artists, as it suggests they are decadent if not infantile, stuck in a primitive state of mental development. “The evolution of culture is synonymous with the removal of ornament from objects of daily use,” Loos declares, flatly rejecting the idea that lack of ornament implies an ascetic self-denial—and then proceeds to insult anyone who might disagree. For those who ornament their bodies with tattoos, he declares, “The modern man who tattoos himself is a criminal or a degenerate. There are prisons where 80 percent of the inmates bear tattoos. Those who are tattooed but not are not imprisoned are latent criminals or degenerate aristocrats” (or post-collegiate hipsters). Of those who like to dress up, he wonders how they can stand to “walk about in red velvet trousers with gold braids like monkeys at a fair.” Of the impulse to paint, he explains that “Erotic excess” drives painters to make their marks on canvas, the way caveman marked walls and vandals graffiti lavatories. Those who look to the past in nostalgia to revive the accoutrements of past luxuries, he says “impede the cultural development of nations and humanity itself,” and are thus “criminals.” In response to the fallacy that planned obsolescence in fashion creates more work and thus propels the economy, he suggests that the Austrian empire be burned to the ground every so often so it could be the most prosperous nation in the world.”**

Personal comments and ideas 

In “Ornament and Crime”, a strong opposition towards the use of ornaments in everyday objects all the way to large buildings is sensed drastically. The creation of these is thought to be a waste of much-needed labour. Also he had two main ideas that supported his anti-ornament ideas which were that it is a misuse of the valuable worksmanship of workers and that it harms the mental health which results in the dellaying of the improvement in society and culture.

I think Adolf Loos’s ideas are very compelling and attractive towards many people because of its use of relatable but also harsh critisizing comparisons. He made a really good use of the interconnected ideas which is that with the missed labour the health is also affected. But also, he was short to draw somewhat clear distinction between what is an ornament and what is not. When these differences arent that much studied in an expression which centers around the abandoning the use of ornaments, this expression is weakened.

References for the reseach

* http://www.sofaexpo.com/chicago/essays/2010/is-ornament-a-crime-rethinking-the-role-of-decoration-in-contemporary-wood

**  http://www.popmatters.com/post/ornament_and_crime/

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Author: ersanilktan

Architecture student at TEDU

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