Adolf Loos: Ornament and Crime

I really enjoyed reading this, these are some highlights I picked up on.

Papuan-Various indigenous peoples of New Guinea and neighboring islands.

  • The Papuan tattoos his skin, his boat, his paddles, in short everything he can lay his hands on. he is not a criminal. the modern man who tattoos him self is either a criminal or a degenerate.
  • A country culture can be assessed by the extent to which its lavatory walls are smeared, in the child this is a natural phenomenon, his first artistic expression is to scribble erotic symbols on the walls. But what is natural to the Papuan and the child is a symptom of degeneracy in the modern adult.
  • People walk sadly about in between the glass cases and felt ashamed of their impotence. Every age had its style, is our age alone to be refused a style? By style, people meant ornament.
  • Weep not! see, therein lies the greatness of our age, that it is incapable of producing a new ornament. We have outgrown ornament; we have fought our way through to freedom from ornament. See, the time is nigh, fulfillment awaits us. Soon the streets of the city will glisten like white walls, like Zion, the holy city, the capital of heaven, then fulfillment will come.
  • But if the ornament does not heighten my joy in life or the joy in life of any cultivated person. The show of dishes of past-centuries, which display all kinds of ornaments to make peacocks, pheasants and lobsters look more tasty, have exactly the opposite effect on me.
  • I am perhaps living in 1908, but my neighbor is living in 1900 and the man across the way in 1880.
  • The stragglers slow down the cultural evolution of the nations and of mankind, not only is ornament inflict serious injury on peoples health, on the national budget and hence on cultural evolution.
  • The twentieth century man can satisfy his needs with far lower capitol outlay and hence can save money. The vegetable he enjoys is simply boiled in water and has a little butter been put on it. The other man likes it equally well only when honey and nuts have been added to it and someone has spent hours cooking it. Ornamented plates are very expensive, where as the white crockery from which modern man likes to eat is cheap. The one accumulates savings, the other debts. it is the same with whole nations. Woe when people remains behind in cultural evolution! The British are growing wealthier and poorer….

We can see that Adolf Loos was very passionate about finding the new style of the 20th century, like Corbusier and Marinetti he was trying to warn us that this would happen, in the end here he shows examples of how we are living today.

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