Sunday, November 18, 2012

Loos in Paris 2

Becket, November 18, 2012

I'd love to know more about Loos during his years in Paris.  Particularly about his relationship with the avant-garde.  Yes, there are some points of connection. In 1923 he showed a number of models and drawings in the Salon d'Automne and in 1925 he designed a house for the poet Tristan Tzara, one of the founders of Dada.

Other than a couple of interiors, the house for Tzara was the only project that Loos built in Paris.  Situated on a narrow, steeply sloping plot on Avenue Junot in Montmartre, the house presents an elongated, vertical five-story façade to the street and a terraced massing to the back.  Obviously the section is a response to the topography of the site, but Loos extends this logic all the way to the front, where he divides the façade in two parts: the upper portion in rendered in plaster and the lower built in stone.  It is as if the base were a retaining wall, not unlike the one next door (of course, this is a rhetorical gesture, since the actual retaining walls are farther back.)  In a rather exquisite and daring play of scales, the architect concentrates most of the fenestration inside a pair of large, two-story recessed spaces, one at street level, as a portal framed by a thick concrete lintel, and a narrower, more vertical void on the upper floors.  Only the smaller windows on the third floor are flush with the front surface and, by aligning their sills with the top of the stone, they give the impression that the plaster sheet is sliding up from behind the stone.

(By the way, I've known and admired this house for more than three decades but must confess that only now I'm seeing its connection with the Michaelerplatz building, both with this radical division between the expressed material of the bottom--one polished marble, the other rough stone--and the plainer, more abstract rendition of the top.)

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