Saturday, November 17, 2012

Loos in Paris 1

Becket, November 17, 2012

Nikolaus Pevsner in 1966: "Adolf Loos remains a mystery."  And in many ways he still remains the most elusive figure of modern architecture.  Quintessential Viennese, he spends a number of years--from 1924 to 1928--in Paris.  During that time his work amounts to a series of grandiose projects with little chance of realization, such as a hotel on the Champs-Elysées, an office block with a huge cinema across from Garnier's Opera or a circular garage on the Rue de Messine.

But perhaps the most fascinating of Loos's projects for Paris is the also unbuilt (and most likely never commissioned) house for Josephine Baker.  He takes two houses that Baker owns at a corner of the Avenue Bugeaud and wraps them together in a prismatic volume of alternating black and white marble stripes. He continues the banding around a taller cylindrical turret marking the entrance of the house.  Can you imagine such a radical statement among the traditional bourgeoisie of "le seizième"?

And the stripped façade is just the beginning of an elaborate game of... of hide and seek you could say, where the architect packs a series of monumental stairs, grand salons, narrow passages and hidden cafes circling around a large indoor swimming pool with windows that promise a glimpse or two of the legendary "Black Pearl", naked of course, dancing about in the water.

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