Thursday, March 6, 2008

Design over Lifestyle...

My question is one that has probably been asked numerous times by people: "can architecture be art?" And further yet, can it be gesamtkunstwerk?

I wanted to ask this because I've been to one of the villas designed by Adolf Loos (Muller Villa in Prague), and although Adolf Loos is a harsh critic of ornamentation, I could not help but sense Loos's obsession with how things ought to be. His designs were fascinatingly sophisticated, but totally lacks homeliness. For example, the height of individual stairs are high so that it is hard for kids and elders to climb. The window in the child's room is too high for the child to look out (I guess Muller's daughter hated the room, partly because of this reason). The tour guide explained such complaints (there were many more that I cannot remember accurately) that would only be a result of actually having a life in that house. For a tourist, the house is amazingly beautiful, and Loos's attempt at perfection is felt everywhere. Height of stairs or window in the child's room, the inconvienences are not out of miscalculation, but rather as a result of prioritizing calculated aesthetic effect.

Another story that was interesting to me was this. Mrs. Muller had a fondness for collecting tea cups, and she would display it in her room. But whenever Adolf Loos came to visit the house, she would have to hide it because Loos would get mad (he didn't want the cups displayed because it did not go with his design) and take the cups away.

After a tour through the Muller's Villa, I sensed Loos's obsession with perfecting his spacial design. I almost imagine this being Loos's attempt at "total work of art", forcing to accomodate lifestyles for architecture , not the other way around, as part of his spacial design. Although Loos was against ornamentation, I definitely think that he is an artist.

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