In the midst of Vienna stands the Looshaus, originally home to gentleman’s tailoring firm Goldman & Salatsch, and a striking icon of modern architecture. The building, which is colloquially named after its architect, Adolf Loos, was enormously controversial from the first days in which the plain upper façade was plastered: it inspired virulent public debates as to whether its clean style was the harbinger of an innovative modernity or a disturbingly austere presence in the midst of the ancient city. While the firestorm surrounding Loos’s design of the building was so intense as to render the architect mentally and physically incapacitated by the strain, today, it is easily recognizable an emblem of a new modernism that stripped architecture of its ornaments to reveal the essence of a style that was truly suited to the age.
In The Looshaus, Christopher Long traces the progress of the building from its influences through its completion and up to the present day. This excerpt, the second chapter of his book, describes the way in which Loos’s background—from his childhood spent playing on the floor of his stonemason father’s workshop to his three-year stay in America just before the turn of the century—shaped the most distinct features of his style, setting the stage for Loos’s design of a modernist masterpiece.