Adolf Loos Design Culture Essay
Adolf Loos Design Culture
There are, or were, better arguments than Loos’s against the misuse of ornament. It could be considered morally dubious, because it is a means of showing off one’s wealth. That historical argument was made in the days when hand-crafted decorations were very expensive, but it no longer applicable, now that ornament can be machine-made at a modest cost. In any case, good ornamentation has never been valued solely as ostentation; traditionally, it has also been seen to have real aesthetic merit.
Sometimes, excessive ornamentation could be said to be unaesthetic; and in my perspective, some extreme art creations fall into this error. Art plays a particularly important and influential role in culture. It does not simply reflect culture; it creates culture. By studying ornamentation in different periods of design history, we can understand more about how it has manifested itself and why it is a vital part of our history. Window displays, if used effectively, can bring retailers new customers, create customer loyalty, and enhance the image of the business.
By decorating and furnishing the display windows, retailers can attract more customers into their stores, increase the sales and revenue, because the majority of purchase decisions are made on impulse. Window displays continue to have a massive influence even until now. It is one of the most important tools to draw customers’ attention. Even from an economic perspective, ornamentation is not necessarily a waste of labour, money, and materials. The 19th century definitely is the century of decorative arts. At the beginning of the century, the arts were ornamental subjects in the education of young ladies and gentlemen.
Artistic accomplishments were displayed in pleasing social performances that appeared effortless but demonstrated good taste and ideal values, knowledge, and skills. Art education was one component of a process of secular refinement that spread from the wealthy to the middling sort and included the beautification of houses, churches, as well as school buildings. The art of interior decoration and design was at the same time intimate and luxuriant. Loos argues that ornamentation is uncivilized and primitive, and would hinder the development of national culture.
However, ornamentation meant more than just decoration at that time, and the acceptable use of ornament, and its precise definition became the source of aesthetic controversy in academic Western architecture, as architects and critics searched for appropriate styles. “A plain, functional form generally signified the often harsh necessities of work, and as such was tolerated in its place, but art, in the form of decoration and ornament, represented for many people a deep aspiration for a better life” (Heskett, 56).
Ornamentation at that time brought not only the sense of beauty but also mentally content to its user. What do vehicles, vacuum cleaners, ironers, planes, and ships have in common? Obviously, the streamlined design. In the 20th century, streamlined design has evolved from a scientific to an ornamental purpose. While Loos argues that ornamentation is crime and designers should focus on functions, streamlined design actually improves the functionality and the durability of a product.
The goal for the future is to improve aerodynamic efficiency by greatly reducing drag while maintaining and, wherever possible, increasing down-force” (Ferrari. com). As a result of using aerodynamic streamlined design, Ferrari has become one of the best hyper-sport car brands in the world for fifty years, best known for its speed and handling. “In fact, Fordism turned the factory into a kind of super-machine in its own right, with both human and mechanical parts” (Wollen, P66). Fordism is the economic period that turned craftsmanship into the mass production of standardized objects.
Under Fordism, production entailed an intensified division of industrial labor; increased mechanization and the coordination of large-scale manufacturing processes to achieve a steady flow of production, and shifted toward the using of less skilled labour. This system effectively reduces the costs of producing large quantities of products and, consequently, makes the sale price significantly lower than the craftsman’s. An ornament is not considered to be a prior-determined mask anymore, to create a significance, or, to have a certain meaning, as it was during the postmodern period.
It does not have the role of concealing things, as it did in different historical periods before the modern period, when its existence was futile. A good example of modern design is a wall clock. A clock is meant to draw our attentions through its function. With a fancy design, it also serves as a decoration in the environment. But no matter how fancy the design is, a clock is always meant to be seen easily and quickly. Practical and ornamental designs oftentimes intersect. In those cases, the design elements involved can either work well together or hinder each other.
Loos’s argument about decoration is degenerate and inherently criminal does not stand up. Given the time in he is writing, we can forgive Loss his racist assumptions about the black and the Papuans. However, his assertion that primitive people decorate themselves in tattoos so, therefore decoration must be a degenerate practice is completely unfounded and holds no weight at all. I appreciate modern design just as much, if not more than the ordinary person, but truth be told, I am not really interested in decoration.
University/College: University of Chicago
Type of paper: Thesis/Dissertation Chapter
Date: 3 June 2017
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