Truth’s Architectural Graffiti and Ornament as Crime

Truth Tag 1

[original image viaTruth]

A Polish artist working under the pseudonym “Truth” creates what is perhaps best described as architectural graffiti — minimal, abstract forms made of polystyrene which he (or perhaps she) then attaches to buildings. The objects are intended to respond in some way to the architecture upon which they are installed, but while I appreciate the work, the relationship between object and building is obtuse at best. I do, however, find the idea of architectural graffiti insanely compelling. Taken as a criminal act, it gives strange new life to Adolf Loos’ immortal—and sometimes immoral—1908 essay, “Ornament and Crime,” in which he describes ornament in terms not far removed from how many people think of today’s graffiti.


Getting Drunk with Adolf Loos

adolf loos american bar
[Adolf Loos, The American Bar (1908)
Textbook-style photos of Loos’ American Bar. As you can see, the exterior of the American Bar is ugly as hell. Just ugly enough for me to love it. The inside is the smallest place I’ve ever had fun in…except for that closet at Allison Malone’s 16th Birthday party. Seriously though, its pretty damn small. After passing through a surprisingly awkward vestibule that initially sends the visitor behind the bar, we entered a room we found to be almost uncomfortably crowded with only 15 people in it.

The lower portion of the walls lined with dark mahogany panels, while mirrors are gracefully mounted along the upper perimeter. Most of you have probably seen pictures, but the mirrors really do give the illusion of being in a space much bigger. Every column in the space appears to be perfectly square and of equal proportion, but this is again a trick of the mirrors. Considering its size, the American Bar is an amazing space. Comfortable, elegant, and like the Moller House, the proportions are perfect.

The drinks were well prepared, although a bit expensive, and they were unfortunately served by an asshole of an Austrian bartender who pretended not to be able to understand the German accent of my (exceptionally beautiful) host. Oh well, its always fun to get drunk at an architectural landmark.

see also:
Ornament is a Crime (As is photography, apparently)


"Ornament is a Crime." (as is photography, apparently)

Adolf Loos’ Villa Moller. If you should ever visit this icon of modernism, whatever you do, don’t take a picture! See that little guard booth on the right? The sole purpose of that lone protector is to prevent people from taking photos of the house. (As I learned soon after snapping these) However, the guard was very apologetic and assured us that there were many books with great pictures of the building.

We ventured out into the suburbs of Vienna to find this place, and unfortunately didn’t plan ahead enough to schedule some sort of interior tour…actually, i’m not even sure thats possible for single visitors. Nonetheless, the house was very impressive. Much more beautiful in person that in textbook photos. I’ve always loved what Loos does with his interiors, but I’ve never quite been sold on the complete abandonment of exterior ornament. Until now. To drastically oversimplify, the Moller House just works. It’s beatiful, serene, balanced… Looking at the building, I felt like Loos exploited my subconscious understanding of beauty and harmony.

As we walked through the neighborhood, it was impossible not to notice the number of Loos-alikes scattered amongst the traditional viennese houses. Most were awful, and looked like they might’ve been built in the 70’s or 80’s, but it was nice to see how one architect and one building can make such an impact, especially in a city as conservative as vienna. So even though these moderish-mishaps were less appealing, they were nonethess encouraging.