Adolf Loos schreef Ornament and Crime als lezing in tekst in het Duits gepubliceerd onder de titel Ornament und Verbrechen. PDF | On Jan 1, , Barbara von Orelli-Messerli and others published Ornament und Verbrechen. Adolf Loos’ kontroverser Vortrag. Ornament and Crime began as a lecture delivered by Adolf Loos in in response to a time (the late 19th and early 20th Centuries) and a.

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It struck him that it was a crime to waste the effort needed to add ornamentation, when the ornamentation would cause the object to soon go out of style. Loos never argued for the complete absence of ornamentation, but believed that it had to be appropriate to the type of material.

The human embryo goes through all the phases of animal life while still inside the womb. When man is born, his instincts are those of a newborn dog. His childhood runs through all the changes corresponding to the history of mankind. At the age of two he looks like a Papuan, at four like one of an ancient Germanic tribe, at six like Socrates, at eight like Voltaire.

When he is eight years old, he becomes conscious of violet, the colour discovered by the eighteenth century, for until then violets were blue and purple-fish were red.

The physicist today points out colours in the spectrum of the sun that have already been named, but whose comprehension has been reserved for future generations. The child is amoral. So is the Papuan, to us. The Papuan kills his enemies and eats them. He is no criminal but if a modern man kills someone and eats him, he is a criminal or a degenerate. The Papuan tattoos his skin, his boat, his rudder, his oars; in short, everything he can get his hands on. He is no criminal. Tattooed men who are not behind bars are either latent criminals or degenerate aristocrats.

If someone who is tattooed dies in freedom, then he does so a few years before he would have committed murder. It is the babbling of painting. All art is erotic. The first ornament invented, the cross, was of erotic origin. The first work of art, the first artistic act, which the first artist scrawled on the wall to give his exuberance vent. The man who created this felt the same creative urge as Beethoven, he was in the same state of exultation in which Beethoven created the Ninth.

Of course, this urge affects people with such symptoms of degeneracy most strongly in the lavatory. In children this is a natural phenomenon: But what is natural for, a Papuan and a child, is degenerate for modern man. I have discovered the following truth and present it to the world: I thought I was giving the world a new source of pleasure with this; it did not thank me for it.

People were sad and despondent. What oppressed them was the realization that no new ornament could be created. What every Negro can do, what all nations and ages have been able to do, why should that be denied to us, men of the nineteenth century? What humanity had achieved in earlier millennia without decoration has been carelessly tossed aside and consigned to destruction. People walked sadly around the showcases, ashamed of their own impotence.


Shall every age have a style of its own and our age alone be denied one? By style they meant decoration. We have conquered ornament, we have won through to lack of ornamentation. Look, the time is nigh, fulfilment awaits us. Soon the streets of the town will glisten like white walls.

Like Zion, the holy city, the metropolis of heaven. Then we shall have fulfillment.

Ornament und Verbrechen

But there are some pessimists who will not permit this. Humanity must be kept down in the slavery of decoration. People progressed far enough for ornament to give them pleasure no longer, indeed so far that a tattooed face no longer heightened their aesthetic sensibility, as it did with the Papuans, but diminished it. They were sophisticated enough to feel pleasure at the sight of a smooth cigarette case while they passed over a decorated one, even at the same price. The pessimist heard this with displeasure and the State, whose task it is to retard the cultural progress of the people, took up the fight for the development and revival of ornament.

Woe to the State whose revolutions are made by Privy Councillors! The Austrian government takes its task adollf seriously that it makes sure that puttees do not disappear from the borders of the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy. It forces every civilized twenty-year-old man to wear puttees instead of knitted hose for three years.

For every government adolt labours under the supposition that a nation on a low standard is easier to govern. All right, then, the plague of ornament is recognized by the State and subsidized by State finds.

Jnd I look on this as retrogression. If I want to eat some gingerbread, I choose a piece that is quite plain, and not in the shape of a heart or a baby or a horseman, and gilded all over.

The man from the fifteenth century will not understand me. But all modem people will. The advocate of ornament believes that my urge for simplicity is equivalent to a mortification of the flesh. I prefer it that way. I walk though a culinary display with revulsion at the thought that I am supposed to eat these stuffed animal corpses. I eat roast beef. The immense damage and devastation wrought on aesthetic development by the revival of decoration could easily be overcome, for no one, not even vsrbrechen, can arrest the evolution of mankind.

It can only be retarded We can wait. But it is a crime against the national economy that human labour, money and material should thereby be ruined. This kind of damage cannot be put right by time. The tempo of cultural progress suffers through stragglers.

I may be living inyet my neighbour still lives in and that one over there in It is a misfortune for a country if the cultural development of its people is spread over such a long period. The peasant from Kals lives in the twelfth century. And in the jubilee procession there were contingents from national groups which would have been thought backward even in the period of the migrations of the tribes. Happy the country that has no such stragglers and marauders!

They prefer the pheasant on which the chef has had to work for days, and cigarette cases with Renaissance decoration please them better than ornment ones. And how is it in the country? The farmer is not a Christian, he is still a heathen. I am supposing that each lives according to his inclinations. The twentieth century man can pay for his needs with much less capital and can therefore save. The vegetables he likes are simply boiled in water and then served with a little melted butter.


Decorated plates are very dear, while the plain white china that the modem man likes is cheap. One man accumulates savings, the other one debts. So it is with whole nations. Woe to the country that lags behind in cultural development!

Adolf Loos – Wikipedia

The English become richer and we poorer…. Even greater is the damage ornament inflicts on the workers. As ornament is no longer a natural product of our civilization, it accordingly ornqment backwardness or degeneration, and the labour of the man who makes it is not adequately remunerated. The producers of ornament must work twenty hours to earn the wages a modern worker gets in eight. Decoration adds to the price of an object as a oenament, and yet it can happen that a decorated object, with the same outlay in materials and demonstrably three times as much work, is offered for sale at half the price of a plain object.

The lack of ornament means shorter working hours and consequently higher wages. Chinese carvers work sixteen hours, American workers eight. If I pay as much for a smooth box as for a decorated one, the difference in labour time belongs to the worker.

And if there were no ornament at all — a circumstance that will perhaps come true in a few millennia — a man would have verbrechwn work only four hours instead of eight, for half the work done at present is still for ornamentation. Ornament is wasted labour and hence wasted health. Today, however, it is also wasted material, and both together add up to wasted capital. As ornament is no longer organically linked with our culture, it is also no longer an expression of our culture.

It cannot be olos. What has happened to the decorations of Otto Eckmann and those of Van de Velde? The artist always used to stand at the forefront orna,ent humanity, full of health and vigour. But the modem ornamentalist is a straggler, or a pathological case.

ADOLF LOOS: ORNAMENT AND CRIME, modernist essay/lecture, | The Incubator

He rejects even his own products within three years. To cultivated people they are unbearable immediately, others are aware of their unbearableness only after some years. Where are the works of Otto Eckmann today? Modern ornament has no forbears and no descendants, no past and no future. It is joyfully welcomed by uncultivated people, to whom the true greatness of our time is a closed book, and after a short period is rejected.

Mankind today is healthier than ever, only a few evrbrechen are sick. But these few tyrannize over the worker who is so healthy that he cannot invent ornament.

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