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How and why was Adolf Loos’s essay of 1908, ornament and crime, so influential in the development of modern architecture?

Part 1 Dissertation 2012
Max Davie
Ravensbourne, UK
My dissertation focuses on the essay, Ornament and Crime written in 1908 by the architect and theorist Adolf Loos. My interest lies in the seminal role this essay played in the development of modern architecture. In Trotzdem Loos writes of the ingratitude of some of the next generations of architects who he believes to have plagiarized his ideas without acknowledgment ‘But even the echo as it answers believes the note to be its own, and that perfidious book Die Form ohne Ornament, published in Stuttgart in 1924, conceals my efforts even while it falsifies them’.(Banham 1957 P.88) For this reason I want to investigate why and how his essay was so influential and in light of the above comments, perhaps to decipher whether or not it was at all.
However the term Modern architecture encompasses such a wide variety of styles and sub- movements that it is would be far too great a subject to discuss them all in this dissertation. For this reason I have focused on some of modern architecture’s fundamental principles and underlying ideas as apparent in the three main critical histories.
The dissertation attempts to examine the context of the essay under scrutiny in order to elicit a more meaningful analysis. Consequently, much of the essay is devoted to contextual briefing and analysis which is followed by a close reading of the essay itself.

Max Davie

Layton Reid
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