Learning to Dwell

Wednesday 09 Mar 2011

RIBA displays comprehensive Adolf Loos exhibition in Portland Place, London

Yesterday evening the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) held the second in a series of educational events on the revolutionary architect Adolf Loos (1870-1933). During the free event, historian Christopher Long gave a thorough presentation of Loos’ compositions, as a supporting gesture to a RIBA’s ongoing display of drawings, models, original furniture and glass from the pioneering architect.

Working in close collaboration with the City of Prague Museum, Czech Centre London and Austrian Cultural Forum London, the RIBA is presenting a groundbreaking exhibition on Adolf Loos with many artifacts never witnessed before in Britain. Hailed by Le Corbusier as having ‘a decisive influence on the destiny of architecture’, the Czech-born Loos was heavily influenced by a short stay in the United States in the early 1890s. Taken by the innovative efficiency of American industrial buildings, the designer went on to pen ‘Ornament and Crime’ which polarised critics in its defined a lack of ornament in architectural design as a sign of spiritual strength.

An army man in his early years, Loos founded the ‘Raumplan’ technique – a form of split-level living now intrinsic to residential design the world over. The architect explains: "My architecture is not conceived in plans, but in spaces (cubes). I do not design floor plans, facades, sections. I design spaces. For me, there is no ground floor, first floor etc.... For me, there are only contiguous, continual spaces, rooms, anterooms, terraces etc. Storeys merge and spaces relate to each other. Every space requires a different height: the dining room is surely higher than the pantry, thus the ceilings are set at different levels. To join these spaces in such a way that the rise and fall are not only unobservable but also practical, in this I see what is for others the great secret, although it is for me a great matter of course.”

Spread throughout Gallery 1, Gallery 2 and the RIBA Library in Portland Place, London is an assortment of original designs for private residential compositions, including the restoration Villa Müller in Prague (1928-30) now a National Cultural Monument. An array of Loos’ books and documents is also available for public viewing in the RIBA British Architectural Library.

Two more specialised events will follow: Great Architects: Adolf Loos on Tuesday 29th March and Learning to Dwell – Second Gallery Talk on Tuesday 5th April. The full exhibition will be on display until 3rd May 2011 in Galleries 1& 2 and RIBA Library, RIBA, 66 Portland Place, London, W1. Click here for more information.

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